SARATOGA PAYBACK by Stephen Dobyns


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Shorn of the PI license and handgun permit that saw him through 10 variously loopy cases (Saratoga Strongbox, 1998, etc.), Charlie Bradshaw, whose business card now simply reads “Consultant,” fights to get a piece of the action after he stumbles over a corpse outside his house.

There’s no evidence that small-potatoes insurance/real estate broker Mickey Martin was on his way to see Charlie when his throat was slashed and his tongue cut off, but it does make Charlie wonder. Especially after the remarkably similar murder of bartender Dave Parlucci leads to the discovery of a set of homemade dolls with X’s marking their throats, one of which seems to be wearing Charlie’s signature porkpie hat, Charlie wants to know what exactly Mickey was up to and what connection it might have had with a series of horsenappings that strike close to home when retired Long Island contractor Fletcher Campbell’s horse, Bengal Lancer, is stolen and he’s sent photographs of other horses’ severed heads displayed with more audacity than good taste. Hired to hand over $100,000 ransom to the horse thieves, Charlie faithfully discharges his responsibility without ever crossing the forbidden line into acting once more as a licensed private investigator. But his exemplary behavior earns him no credit with either Campbell or Lt. Frank Hutchins, who continues to stonewall his request for a new gun permit. If Charlie’s going to protect his wife, Janey, her 16-year-old daughter, Emma, or Artemis, the retired equestrienne whose effigy also marks her for death, he’ll have to rely on the highly questionable skills and ethics of his old pal Victor Plotz and on his own ability to tell some pretty serious lies. Good luck with that.

Fans who come for the tangled, forgettable mystery will stay for the hero. The man’s most mundane problems continue to be way more interesting than the criminal intrigues in which Dobyns (Is Fat Bob Dead Yet?, 2015, etc.) entangles him.

Pub Date: March 14th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-399-57657-7
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2017


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