Synopsis . . .
Steve goes undercover at Washington Park to discover who's been doping some racehorses and gets caught up in the unique lifestyle inherent to the backside. But it is not a life without peril because some men are willing to do anything to get the right horse under the wire first.
Praise for DEAD MAN'S TOUCH . . .
from The New York Times . . .
Hidden away from the glittering stage of thoroughbred racing, with its flashing silks and gleaming horseflesh, is a place they call ''the backside.'' In her second stable mystery, DEAD MAN'S TOUCH (Poisoned Pen Press, $24.95), Kit Ehrman refers to this behind-the-scenes area -- where trainers, grooms, barn managers and stable hands minister around the clock to the needs of their high-strung charges -- as ''a world unto itself.'' Ehrman, who has worked at show barns and breeding farms, strikes a solid claim to this gritty territory with another heels-up thriller that takes up where Dick Francis left off. In the barn.
Steve Cline, the young stable hand who made such a strong and sympathetic hero in ''AT RISK,'' searches out the father he never knew, a thoroughbred trainer at a Maryland racetrack, and signs on as a ''hot-walker,'' a lowly exercise worker, when he discovers that someone has been fixing races by tampering with his father's horses. In true Francis tradition, Steve takes plenty of physical punishment as a sleuth. But his undercover role also gives him the inside track on life as it's lived on the backside, a grueling, even squalid existence that pays off in the chance to get close to the magnificent animals that have more character and heart than the two-footed fools who view them as a commodity.
December 28, 2003
More Reviews . . .
Leslie Doran, special to The Denver Post, says "Dick Francis fans rejoice. America now has its own version of stories about the horse-racing world and the people populating it. Kit Ehrman has created a driven, principled character and puts him into situations where he must fight for the moral high ground. Readers who love the excitement of the race will be thrilled with the arrival of this new addition to the field of mystery fiction."
~The Denver Post
"Ehrman, who gave us the well-received AT RISK, has produced a second solid, diverting and apparently authentic equine mystery in DEAD MAN'S TOUCH. Ehrman does a fine, spare job. Along the way we get enough details of the hard, smelly, underpaid life in that part of racing called--not without humor--the backside to make up for several screenings of "Seabiscuit."
~Dick Adler of The Chicago Tribune
an excerpt . . .
I gradually became conscious of my breathing. Slow, deep breaths, indicative of sleep, then a subtle shifting of air currents that set off an alarm somewhere in my brain. I told it to shut up and slipped back into blissful oblivion, only to be awakened by a tickling sensation on the back of my neck, like a shirt tag that had twisted out of place.
When I remembered I wasn’t wearing a shirt, I came fully awake.
A hand clamped down on my neck.
I opened my mouth to yell, and he shoved my face into the pillow, the sound getting lost in the foam stuffing. I swung wildly at him and was surprised when he let go. As I pushed upward, I heard a click. Something touched my lower back.
Pain jolted through my spine and slammed me against the mattress. Sharp, brutal pain. Air shot out of my lungs. A scream.
Fingers twisted into my hair, and he held my face against the pillow.
“That was just a taste,” a voice above my head whispered, “so you know I mean business.”
Spasms racked my arms and legs. A million burning needles. Nerve endings firing uncontrollably.
I was dimly aware of the mattress depressing as he climbed onto the bed and straddled me, and I couldn’t do a thing to stop him. He yanked my head backward, and somewhere among the confused jumble of thoughts bouncing around inside my brain, I thought that I should scream for help. Yell at the top of my lungs. Do something. But the thought never made it to my mouth or anywhere else. A hand came around in front of my face and slapped something across my lips.
“What if he vomits like the other one?” someone mumbled. Nervous. Distant. Close to the door. “He’ll choke.”
“Shut up,” the one on top of me said. More like a growl than a voice. Low. Under his breath.
He let go of my hair then, and my head dropped back onto the pillow. Somewhere overhead, the sound of ripping. He jerked my head off the pillow and pressed something over my eyes. I tried to open my mouth, and this time I felt a response. The correct impulse traveling along the right nerve. Muscles trying to move. But my lips were stuck together.
Tape. It had to be tape.
He bound my wrists with it.
“Look at this.”
The words jarred me into the present. Not the nervous voice by the door. Not the one who had put the tape on my face, either. A younger voice. Casual.
“You were right,” he said. “He’s got background info on everyone in Kessler’s outfit. And look at this.” Papers rustled. “This ain’t no kinda paycheck I ever seen.”