One quality I most appreciate in a mystery/crime story is unpredictability. I want to meet characters I have not seen before and be drawn into a story that keeps me guessing. On both these counts, Breeders succeeds admirably.
Set in the world of high-stakes horse racing, Breeders follows a diverse cast of characters who connive and conspire to better their lives, both financially and romantically. The lead character is a black trainer named Len Thomas who longs to emulate the success of the last great trainer of color Jimmy Winkfield. Thomas decides that the only way he can do this is by fixing a race and then stealing the semen of a champion stud. Naturally, things get complicated, and both he and his employer and co-conspirator Pat McGoohey end up spending time in jail.
Barney Rostaing has written a timely tale in many respects. He deftly incorporates the post-9/11 “national security” madness of America into the plot. And the topic of horse racing is certainly a popular one theses days with books , plays, and films, such as Seabiscuit, Secretariat, and The War Horse permeating popular culture.
Breeders is to be admired for not following the formula of most crime novels. However, in his attempt to be unconventional, Rostaing makes a couple of missteps. The most serious is the length and pacing (no pun intended) of the story. Breeders might well have been better served with a tighter edit; every hotel room, meal, and incident – no matter how trivial – is laid out in detail. The plot takes a while to kick in. The reader is well into the book, several chapters at least, before before the initial criminal enterprise is undertaken – the fixing of a horse race. And the main event involving theft, does not happen till page 171. Rostaing falls into the trap of many modern writers-what I label “descriptionitis.” The last section of the book set in Mexico is needlessly protracted. This is too bad because Rostaing is good at laying out the details of the important plot points, such as how you go about fixing a horse race so you don’t win and don’t get caught.
I look forward to future books from this author. Hopefully he will ‘pick up the pace’ in his next work.
|Page Count||354 pages|
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|Category||Mystery, Crime & Thriller|