Gail McCarthy's specialty is sick horses, but it's dead people she keeps running into. This time the victims are her clients Ed and Cindy Whitney, whose cow horse Plumb is in better shape than they are. Although she recognizes a Santa Cruz street person on the scene, Gail's convinced he's innocent--unlike the cops, who seem determined to run him in. But Gail has a better reason to turn detective than sticking up for the underdog: The day that began with her discovering the Whitneys' corpses ended with her almost becoming one herself, when somebody shot at her during a phony emergency call in the middle of nowhere. Though Gail's beat is crawling with likely suspects--Ed's filthy-rich uncle and sister, the parents who disowned Cindy years ago when they found out she was turning tricks, the double-dealing trainer trying to pass off an injured horse as sound, the spoiled breeder who has the hots for the Whitneys' trainer and wants to run Gail off her claim--things don't really heat up until another emergency call turns into a no-nonsense threat by the hired killer who obviously executed Ed and Cindy. But hired by whom? A capable mystery whose background, unlike that of Gail's debut (Cutter, 1994), is more James Herriot than Dick Francis-- and all the better for the change.