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The complicated tale consists of three different threads: One involves a charming, handsome horse swindler; the second is the unsolved 1977 disappearance of Helen Brach, heiress to the Brach candy fortune; and the third involves the venality of the wealthy who have their show horses murdered in order to collect on the insurance. Englade capably juggles these different tales, which are united through an investigation conducted by Steve Miller, an energetic and ambitious young federal prosecutor in Chicago. Miller, looking for his next big case, is told about Richard Bailey, the swindler who courts wealthy, lonely Chicago women, bleeds them dry by selling them worthless horses at inflated prices, then abandons his victims to their fate. But these fraud cases are only the means to a larger end for Miller: He wants to nail Bailey for the murder, nearly two decades earlier, of Helen Brach, with whom he was known to be friendly. And along the way, Miller uncovers horse hit man Tom Burns, who reveals the greedy, violent underside of the elite show-horse world. Englade has some wonderful characters to work with, including the smooth-talking, cold-hearted Bailey and Brach, who believes she can communicate with the dead through automatic writing. But Englade tells us almost everything we need to know before the trials—the climax of the book—even begin, leaving readers with nothing to learn except the verdicts. And he has a corny way with inventing scenes—which he admits doing "for dramatic impact based on testimony and interviews."
Englade might have done better to restrict his tale to one or two of its threads and explore in greater depth the world of wealth of which we get only a glimpse here.