Dean M. DeLuke
Grey Swan Press, 2010
First things first: A “shedrow” is “a row of a dozen or so individual [horse] stalls facing a walkway.” That tidbit known, I would imagine, by those familiar with horse farms was only one of many picked up while immersed in this debut novel by Dean DeLuke who, like his protagonist, Dr. Anthony Gianni, combines ownership of thoroughbred horses with life as a doctor with an impressive c.v.: a specialty in oral and maxillofacial surgery [including plastic surgery], also having done a stint in a hospital in England as well as volunteer work as a medical missionary.
Dr. Gianni has only recently come to find both peace and excitement at the racetrack as the book opens: “. . . of late he had abandoned the seascapes in favor of the training track. Once inside those gates [in Saratoga Springs, New York], he felt as though he were a million miles from the hustle of Manhattan and the frenzy of a big city emergency room.” He is moved to purchase a share of the ownership of a two-year-old horse which particularly captivates him.
There is much here of both aspects of Dr. Gianni’s life, both in his hospital surgeries and volunteer work in the poorest area of a small Caribbean island nation, as well as of horseracing and the seamier aspects of a world where the life, health and death of magnificent animals can mean millions of dollars won or lost. The reader is taken to places as divergent as New York City, encountering crime bosses in Newark, New Jersey and all that that implies, and horse farms in Lexington, Kentucky, as well as racetracks around the country. When the mafia intervenes, things turn ugly, and threats are made against the human and animal inhabitants of the book. The novel is well-written and suspenseful, and is satisfying in terms of both a medical thriller and the excitement, and sometimes the dangers, inherent in horseracing.
Mr. DeLuke’s writing has been called a combination of Dick Francis and Robin Cook, something with which I would have to agree. The mantle heretofore worn by Mr. Francis may indeed soon have a new owner. Recommended.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, October 2010.