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Part-time shamus Charlie Bradshaw, the 50-ish, overweight, and very likable hero of Dobyns' Saratoga, N.Y., mystery-series (Saratoga Swimmer, etc.), has to work over-time here--as three different investigations demand his attention all at once. First there's the theft of a priceless painting of Man O'War from the Racing Hail of Fame: Charlie's hired to pay a $5,000 ransom to the thieves, which he does. . .but the painting isn't returned. Then, before Charlie can track down the art thieves, more larceny erupts: his pal Victor Plotz hosts a private gambling-party on Super Bowl Sunday--only to be robbed (of over $10,000) by ski-masked intruders. And, virtually simultaneously, Charlie's favorite grocer, Joe Pellegrino, is found murdered--and is soon revealed to have been a secret big-time bookmaker! The prime murder suspects, then, are the bookis six anonymous heavy-bettors, each of whom went by an animal codename. So Charlie, while pursuing those other two cases, sets out to identify all six (even if one is his own stuffy cousin). Along the way, he stumbles Onto several more corpses, gets a nasty glimpse of the dog-fighting subculture. . .and starts to realize (as many readers will anticipate) that the assorted crimes are more or less connected. Ragged and over-busy plotting, with too many sketchy villains--but the jolts of action (including pit-bull terror) are bracing, and Charlie remains fine low-key company as he mixes offbeat romance, rueful humor, and off-hand heroics.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Viking