A Jack Doyle Mystery by John McEvoy
Review: John McEvoy's second horse-racing mystery featuring publicist Jack Doyle, Close Call, charms the reader with the joys and pitfalls of running a modern race track.
Celia McCann has inherited 51% of a nearly bankrupt track from her uncle. Her cousin, Niall Hanratty, who lives in Ireland, has inherited the other 49%. Celia's uncle raised her from childhood and taught her all about the track, the horses, their trainers, and the riders. She loves the life. But the Monee track, about twenty miles south of Chicago, is suffering. Because of the recent influx of gambling boats in and around the Chicago area, many of the gamblers have left the racetrack to seek out the "boats". A bill pending in the Illinois Senate to allow video slot machine on the track premises would increase revenue not only for the track but for the state as well. But this could take time. An old friend of Celia's uncle, "furrier-to-the-mob" Moe Kellman, comes to Celia's aid by offering to lend her the money to "stay alive" and keep the track running until better days come. He urges Jack Doyle to write the ads and news briefs for the track. In the meantime, Niall, himself a track owner in Ireland, has been told that it would be more advantageous for him to convince Celia to sell the Monee track for future development. Celia defiantly opposes the idea. It's a tug-of-war between cousins that rapidly descends into violence and has Doyle right in the middle.
Close Call isn't so much a mystery as it is a suspense novel with a light touch. The plot examines Celia's personal issues as well as her professional ones: her husband is succumbing to Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) and she's not certain where the threats against the track are coming from, including one to kill a valuable horse that enthralls crowds and brings them back. Her cousin claims he's not responsible but if not him, who?
More than the plot itself, the characters in Close Call make it a winning story about devotion to one's family and dedication to one's beliefs with gentle wit and undying love. And because it's a mystery (or suspense novel), there's a bit of crime as well but it's clearly a secondary element here.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Close Call.
Acknowledgment: Poisoned Pen Press provided an ARC of Close Call for this review.
Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Significant Seven
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), April 2010
ISBN-13: 9781590587058; ISBN-10: 1590587057
Location(s) referenced in Close Call: Chicago, Illinois
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Close Call by John McEvoy — A Jack Doyle Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: March 2008
List Price: $24.95