John McEvoy John McEvoy
Close Call reviewed in Chicago Tribune

by Paul Goat Allen

Evanston resident John McEvoy's third novel set in and around Illinois' horse-racing industry (after 2006's Riders Down) is reminiscent of iconic mystery author Dick Francis' whodunits that feature jockey-turned-detective Sid Halley. Like Francis, McEvoy's richly described and insightful depiction of the daily ebb and flow of racetrack life is so vivid readers will almost be able to smell the atmosphere.

Monee Park is a thoroughbred racetrack in southern Cook County struggling financially in an increasingly competitive gambling market. Riverboat casinos in particular have dramatically hurt business, but with a gambling bill in the legislature that would allow racetracks to install video slot machines, hope is on the horizon.

When 42-year-old former amateur boxer and failed advertising executive Jack Doyle is offered the job of publicity director at Monee Park, he knows the odds are good the track will close before the Senate can pass the bill. But when the money room is robbed, electrical problems spoil a major event and arsonists try to destroy valuable documents, Doyle realizes something nefarious is afoot.

... the conclusion of Close Call is briskly paced and action-packed of Francis' will enjoy McEvoy's wry sense of humor and adeptly described array of people associated with horse racing, from owners to handlers to die-hard bettors. As the cool Doyle so aptly reflects, "there's as many characters per square foot around the racetrack as there are divorcees in Vegas."
Copyright © 2008 Chicago Tribune



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