A jockey-trainer with a checkered past returns home to Ireland and the farm that was once his family's--only to enter a world more compromised and compromising than he is. Months after his release from prison after he ran down a pedestrian in a drugged stupor, Micky Brennan still can't make a living hawking vitamin supplements for his former mounts. But he's none too eager to take a job with Cathy Kramer--the crippled matriarch who bought Ballysheenan after his father lost the money to keep it together. So he diverts himself on the job by falling in love with Cathy's unhorsey niece Jenny Farlow and by planning an ingenious betting coup: he'll buy Martindale, a hack with an operable brain tumor, and enter the horse under a roundabout series of substitutions that will keep his identity and his links to Ballysheenan secret. Meanwhile, trouble is brewing: IRA extortionists--headed by courtly, plausible Colonel Murphy--demand protection money from Cathy, threatening her prize stud Sansovin if she refuses. She refuses anyway, and Micky, who'd like nothing better than for her to come to her senses and pay them off, spends months walking a tightrope between his loyalty to his stable and his fervent desire to avoid violence. Using his old Republican friend Fergal Doherty as a go-between, he arranges to cut the blackmailers in on his scheme to race Martindale if they'll drop their demands for cash--but they make it clear that if anything goes wrong with the scheme, they'll be back for an extra pound of flesh. Daniel's skill here in playing off multiple levels of corruption and compromise allows him to kick over the Dick Francis traces that hobbled his The Devil to Pay (1993): a superior horseracing suspenser.