Media Critique of "Shedrow"

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Dr. Anthony Gianni is a New York surgeon who loves the racing world and the horses in it. But He's also living through a dysfunctional marriage.

Looking for fun, and probably distraction, Gianni becomes part of a syndicate that owns a horse named Chiefly Endeavor, who stamps himself as a Kentucky Derby candidate. Chiefly Endeavor misses the Derby with an injury, and then wins the Preakness before suffering a career-ending injury. But that's only the beginning of Gianni?s intrigue.

One of the other syndicate owners is a gangster named Chester Pawlek, a man who owes far too much money to people to whom you shouldn't owe money, and when the horse retires to stud after The Preakness, he becomes worth more dead than alive to Pawlek. The gangster arranges to have him cleverly killed by ? well, we won?t ruin the story. A Lexington veterinarian and a pre-vet student working at the stud farm where Chiefly Endeavor dies prove integral in solving the case.

Despite its brevity, Shedrow has a rather complicated plot, with a long list of characters. In his first novel, Dean DeLuke uses real jockeys as minor characters too, a ploy that would be more distracting if they did more than walk or ride through scenes.

Told in third person, with considerable external and internal dialogue, the plot is set primarily in and around Lexington, Ky., and Manhattan, with trips to the New York tracks and other racing centers, Long Island and the island of St. Lucia.

DeLuke grew up on his father?s Thoroughbred farm in New York state. He's now an oral and maxillofacial surgeon and was a partner in Dogwood Stables for many years. So, in addition to being heavy on equine facts and scene description, Shedrow is very heavy on the medical. He likes to describe medical procedures and conditions in detail, which probably comes naturally to him. Still, DeLuke presents the characters and their exploits in a manner that's more Hemingway-esque than King-esque.

His character development is a bit incomplete too. Dialog is often especially chopped. You have a sense DeLuke has written his novel much the same way he types his case reports. His terseness keeps the plot galloping, but it leaves a lot of unanswered questions and contributes to the challenge of keeping the characters straight, as you never feel you get to know them well. You won?t become a part of the action; you're always an outsider looking in at numerous characters.

Best suited for:

Anyone who likes mysteries set in barns and on racetracks, as we do. Shedrow will keep you guessing.

you'll be disappointed if:

Proofreading and grammar are important to you. Shedrow is poorly proofread, a distracting shortfall. THere's hardly a chapter without punctuation mistakes ? the biggest mistake is missing quotation marks, but missing commas and periods are also frustratingly common. The missing quotation marks often force you to go back to figure out who said what.