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Outside Chance    by Lyndon Stacey order for
Outside Chance
by Lyndon Stacey
Order:  USA  Can
Hutchinson, 2006 (2005)
Hardcover, Softcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Lyndon Stacey is being hailed as the new Dick Francis. Like him, she writes thrillers that connect in different ways to the racing world, with likeable leads who rise to the unexpected challenges she throws at them. But more so than Francis ever did, Stacey colors different shades of grey into her stories - she has out and out villains, but also good people who go against the law for reasons with which the reader can sympathize, people her heroes try to protect.

The protagonist in Outside Chance is freelance journalist Ben Copperfield. Paradoxically, he works in the racing world, despite a childhood tragedy that left him in terror of getting close to horses. Ben has a charming girlfriend, Lisa, whom he rather takes for granted, a relationship that evolves through the story. Ben learns about the kidnapping of Cheltenham Gold Cup favorite Cajun King from his half-brother Mikey, and is asked to investigate by the racehorse's very unlikeable, ruthless trainer/owner, Eddie Truman. At the same time, Ben is working on a piece about a Gypsy circus troupe, The Hungarian Csikos, whose members he has gotten to know and like, especially the group's talented star Nico and its patriarch, Jakob.

At Truman's request and with help from a friend who's a police officer, Ben investigates various individuals who have reasons to hold grudges against the horse's owner, resulting in several violent encounters. There are animal lib protestors, including a few on the radical fringe, and former employees of Truman who fell hard out of favor. Along the way, Jakob helps him deal with his equine phobia and its roots. Ben digs out a set of surprising answers to what happened in both the recent and far past, and he takes the law into his own hands, in a crescendo of a very satisfying conclusion.

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