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They lived for that one chance; the chance to get home first. They waited for that one second. For that moment when they broke into the clear down the home stretch, and no one was going to catch them. Behind the glamorous exterior of horse racing, lies the gritty reality of the backside. Within this fiercely competitive world of owners, trainers, vets, and jockeys something has gone terribly wrong. As opening day approaches, one racehorse is poisoned, another has her leg crushed by a lead pipe and a third ...
They lived for that one chance; the chance to get home first. They waited for that one second. For that moment when they broke into the clear down the home stretch, and no one was going to catch them. Behind the glamorous exterior of horse racing, lies the gritty reality of the backside. Within this fiercely competitive world of owners, trainers, vets, and jockeys something has gone terribly wrong. As opening day approaches, one racehorse is poisoned, another has her leg crushed by a lead pipe and a third mysteriously disappears. Shock and horror grip the racing community.Despite all security efforts, the brutal killings continue. For Dan Morgan it becomes personal when his precocious two-year-old filly is targeted. Dan befriends AJ Kaine, a lonely, "horse whispering" young man. AJ is a hotwalker, the lowest of jobs in the backside food chain. But AJ has a secret—perhaps a secret that can corner a killer. With AJ's help, Dan must crack the extortion scheme or risk becoming the next victim.
Posted April 16, 2011
After reading ELIJAH'S COIN, the first book by this fine new author Steve O'Brien this reader couldn't help but reflect that one of the reasons that excellent novel was so powerful was the fact that much of the courtroom denouement of that story was made more visceral because the author is a practicing lawyer: his skills as a legal council were as evident as his new skills as a writer. Now, reading this terse, fascinating novel BULLET WORK a similarity exists: not only is O'Brien a lawyer, he is also a former thoroughbred owner, a fact that gives him much inside information when writing this engrossing story about the life of horse racing. The story of BULLET WORK is well described by others reviewing this book: it is a tale of intrigue and crime that accompanies the field of raising, training, and racing horses - a tale well plotted to keep the suspense level high and the reader involved, making it one of those books that is comfortable (and compulsive) to read in an evening. What makes O'Brien's novel so engrossing is the manner in which he lays out his story - creating characters so three dimensional that that are wholly recognizable throughout the book and different enough in variation to make every actor in the drama important. Dan Morgan is the humanistic thoroughbred owner who recognizes in the quiet, limping AJ a teenage hotwalker capable of being a horse whisperer, Crok the feisty female café owner whose personality levels the playing field among the myriad men assigned to the various important jobs in the 'backside' (the stables and training aspects of horse racing), the 'bad guys' are double named Baseball Cap/Falcon and Cowboy Hat/Raven, etc. The manner in which O'Brien introduces each of these characters in brief focused chapters is a stroke of writing genius, a polished version of the manner in which some other novelists such as Cormac McCarthy have always used. But the story would not seem as involving were it not for the extraordinary veracity of O'Brien's description of the minute details of place and circumstance that set the scenes for the animal abuse and killings that drive this story. And as in his previous novel, there are ample amounts of life lessons to be learned form the interaction between Dan Morgan and the simple yet insightful AJ. Steve O'Brien continues to impress with his skills as a writer and his underlying concern for humanity that is so lacking in the work of other writers of this genre. He only makes us eager for his next book! Grady Harp
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Posted April 29, 2011
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There is a world of owners, trainers, hot-walkers, grooms, vets, stall muckers that all work behind the scenes of horse racing. These people work on the "backside" of this highly competitive world. It is here that this story takes place.
As Opening Day approaches to this Virginia racetrack, horses are dying. As the season progresses more horses are killed. All in a scam to extort money from the trainers by some unknown person or group who want to be paid to keep the horses safe.
This becomes personal for the lead character of this book, Dan Morgan as one of his prize horses is targeted. Dan with the help of a very special young man, who seems to have a gift with horses, begin a mission to try to find out who is behind these awful killings and shut down the extortion scam all while keeping themselves from becoming the next targets.
My knowledge of horse racing before reading this book was pretty minimal. I have watched races like the Kentucky Derby on television so I know horses run around a track and people bet on who will win, place or show. This book gave me quite an education in the art of horse racing, from the learning which horses can run in each race, to the life behind the scenes of the track.
The story was also very interesting as to the lengths some people will go to to pad their own pockets. O'brien writes a great story of mystery leaving us guessing until the last chapter as to the culprits responsible for the deaths of the horses, but he also lets us fall in love with the character of AJ and then breaks our hearts.
The book is fast paced and while the story revolves around the extortion mystery, I found it more of a story of loyalty, trust and friendship. A race horse costs a great deal of money depending on age and talent so the owner has to trust the people he puts in charge of their care. The employees of the owner must be loyal not only to the owner but each other and give the horse the best care possible. But beyond all that what resonated for me was the friendship that developed between the young, AJ and Dan Morgan. An owner and a man who did probably the lowest of jobs on the "backside". There was a connection from the moment they met, that at first was resisted by AJ, but as the story progressed so did that friendship. AJ was a special person with a special gift, Dan was the only one to truly recognize this.
I found this book to be a very enjoyable read and will look forward to seeing more from this author. He does have another book out Elijah's Coin thats looks very good and highly acclaimed.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from The Cadence Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
Posted April 5, 2011
No man ever died with a good two year old in his barn. Dan Morgan seems destined to test this premise to the extreme. Bullet Work is a thrill ride set on the racetrack backside. Dan is an attorney and small time thoroughbred owner. A deadly extortion scheme comes to the racetrack. Trainers and owners are forced to pay protection money to ensure the safety of their runners. With the help of AJ Kaine, a horse whispering, autistic young man, Dan must crack the case to save his prize two year old filly, Aly Dancer. The dialog is tight, the characters vivid, and the action highly paced. Highly recommended for mystery and thriller fans.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 3, 2011
BULLET WORK by Steve O'Brien is a fiction with suspense,mytery set in the world of horse racing. The plot is interesting,compelling,easy to follow and will keep you on the edge of your seat.The characters are easy to believe.While this story has greed,extortion,competitiveness,secrets,the world of horse racing, it is also about the love of horses, and the young "horse-whispering".It also enlightens us on how horses are sold,trained,brought,stabled,raced,the competitive side of horse racing and the lengths some people would go to to win.This is a fast paced story for anyone who loves horses,suspense,mystery and a great read. This book was received for the purpose of review from The Cadence Group and the author and details can be found at
A & N Publishing My Book Addiction and More
Posted March 21, 2011
I know next to nothing about horses, only what I learned from an early addiction to Dick Francis mysteries, which I read for fun, not racing form. This week I read Bullet Work by Steve O'Brien. This novel tells quite a bit about how horses are bought, sold, trained, stabled and raced; I'll probably not remember the details any better than I did before. But I will remember the young horse-whisperer AJ and his uncanny ability. It's a skill that annoys those who see the limping boy as an invader on their turf, fear of the unknown perhaps inspiring their determination to make the unknown afraid. I'll remember Aly Dancer too. And I'll confess my heart did beat faster as I watched her race. They're neither of them the protagonist in this tale, but they're powerful characters leaving a lasting impression.
Author Steve O'Brien builds a very convincing racetrack in Bullet Work, and peoples it with plausible, sometimes wonderful, characters, both equine and human. There's Dan, the lawyer who owns horses. There's Jake who trains them and struggles to make ends meet. There's Ginny the money-lender, AJ the crippled boy, young jockey Kyle waiting for his break, cops and race-track-owners and more, not to mention Aly Dancer and her friends. But someone, somewhere in this world of horse-lovers, is hurting the majestic beasts in the name of money.
The author fills in details of horse-racing and makes me care about them, at least for now, so I don't skip paragraphs of explanation even though the temptation's there. He tells a thrilling mystery too, with danger, tension, investigation, suspicion and very believable dialog. Is the story about horse-racing, about solving the mystery, or about relationships? Perhaps it's all three. It works. It leaves the reader drawing a breath of joy tinged with sadness. And the final message, "We all have a gift," is one we'd do well to remember-Steve O'Brien's Bullet Work is definitely a good read and I enjoyed it.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Rebecca at Cadence marketing in exchange for an honest review.
Posted May 30, 2012
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