I closed my review of Steve O’Brien’s first race track book, Bullet Work with:
“The only downside to me is that some of the peripheral characters appear to be caught in various stages of development, particularly Dan’s love interest, Beth. It could very well be that I wanted more for the two of them but the budding romance gets pushed to the side almost as soon as it gets started. The upside: maybe there are more “Dan Morgan” books in our future that will develop their racetrack romance?”
Thankfully, in Dead Money, O’Brien’s follow up effort, he answers my question in the affirmative. In fact, Dead Money takes us into the future with not only hero Dan Morgan and his love interest, Beth, but his promising filly, Aly Dancer as she enters her 3-year old season and points to a showdown in the Kentucky Oaks.
For those of us that have owned good but never great horses, Dan’s dream of running a competitive horse in a top flight race on national television is a dream that we all share and O’Brien gives us a great feel of what that might feel like to us when and if we ever get there. However for Morgan, nothing is ever easy and when Aly falls into the sights of a cold blooded Russian mobster, it’s up to him to figure out why a mysteriously accented voice on the phone demands that he sell the filly…or else.
Dead Money is faster paced than Bullet Work and the action careens from racetrack to mobster to courthouse and the Oaks gets closer and Dan gets pulled deeper into the mystery. Brutal at times, especially its opening scene, Dead Money’s action rarely stops and, though we lose a character we can to care about in Bullet Work, the ending is satisfying for Dan, Beth and Aly…or is it really?
The complex, international scheme eventually unfolds and leaves you wondering if that could really happen. O’Brien senses that and gives you a real life example of just that at the end of the novel. When you think it through it makes a lot of sense. Too much sense in fact and it makes you wonder if the loopholes O’Brien exposes can ever be closed.
Dan and Beth have no easy path to happiness and happily ever after doesn’t reach up to get them at the end of Dead Money either. But it could be within reach. Hopefully we learn more about them both in the next installment.
*Full Disclosure: I was a sent a sample copy of Dead Money by The Cadence Group to review. However there was no deal for a good review, only that I read the book and give an honest assessment of the book - my opinion, which appears above.