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A Killing at the Track: A Jeri Howard Mystery    by Janet Dawson order for
Killing at the Track
by Janet Dawson
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2000
* *   Reviewed by G. Hall

AKilling at the Track is the ninth entry in Janet Dawson's series featuring private investigator Jeri Howard. These mysteries are set in the San Francisco Bay area, which gives the author wide scope to choose interesting locations. Previous novels have taken place in downtown San Francisco, the East Bay / Oakland area, Berkeley and Napa Valley. Jeri Howard is an independent and very competent P.I. in the mold of Kinsey Milhone, Carlotta Carlyle and V.I. Warshawski.

One of the pleasures of reading this mystery sub-genre is in seeing how capably the female sleuths handle all kinds of situations without any male intervention. Of course, there are men in these mysteries, but they are not in charge. The Jeri Howard books stand out from the large group of recent female detectives, since they are always well-plotted and contain just the right amount of personal interactions for the sleuth. They also avoid unnecessary cutesy or eccentric characters which many authors feel necessary to inject into their stories.

This one is set at a fictional East Bay thoroughbred racing track where trainer Stan Torrance has suddenly died of an apparent heart attack. He and his daughter, trainer Molly Torrance, have been the targets of threatening phone calls and a fire at their house. The harassment continues after his death and Jeri is called in to investigate. One prime suspect is the unpleasant and overly aggressive female jockey, Benita Pascal, who soon ends up murdered in a horse's stall, drawing Jeri into a more serious investigation.

AKilling at the Track is not Dawson's best book, but fans of female sleuths will enjoy it. The depiction of racetrack life behind the scenes and the arcana of the racing industry make for good entertainment. Readers are encouraged to also try Witness to Evil and A Credible Threat - two of the author's finest.

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