Friday, October 25, 2013

Murder at the track

I have read quite a few of the 17 Milan Jacovich mysteries written by Les Roberts, but the new one, Win, Place, or Die (Gray & Company), is a bit different from the others I've seen. This time both the author and his hero need a little help.

This story is set in the world of harness racing, something Roberts concedes he knows nothing about. So he gives co-author credit to Dan S. Kennedy, a Cleveland businessman with a lifetime interest in the sport. As for the private investigator, Jacovich now has an assistant, K.O. O'Bannion, a brawny military vet. He has hired O'Bannion because he figures he's getting too old to take any more beatings or to sustain another concussion in the line of duty. So guess who gets beaten up and gets another concussion?

One of Jacovich's friends, Glenn Gallagher, a wealthy horse owner and sometimes driver, dies at the track right in front of the investigator. Gallagher has a history of heart trouble, so nobody suspects anything unusual and the body is cremated. Then Gallagher's son, a professor at Hiram College, begins to have doubts and hires Jacovich to snoop around at the track. He suspects his father may have been murdered. And since Jacovich wonders whether Gallagher, on the night of his death, had been about to hire him to look into something, he takes the case.

When a second death occurs at the track, this one much more suspicious than the first, Jacovich and O'Bannion know they must be on to something.

The novel is an enjoyable romp, even more so for anyone familiar with the Cleveland area. Roberts fills his story with numerous references to places, people and events that readers from northern Ohio will eat up.

The novel's title seems a bit lame, however, especially with such other great titles in the series as Full Cleveland, The Indian Sign and King of the Holly Hop. There have been several other mysteries with the same or a similar title, including one featuring Nancy Drew. Surely Roberts could have found something more original than Win, Place, or Die.

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