The Horseman’s Word (Sons of the Wolf)
Set in post-Civil War New York, The Horseman’s Word is a dense, well-researched novel of historical speculation that will appeal to fans of the era. Rose Adair is the daughter of a wealthy industrialist left demented by what appeared to be a terrorist attack. Rose faces powerful and dark forces from all sides as she struggles to care for her father amid the often lawless ethnic and class conflicts of a New York in recovery from the effects of the war. The most enigmatic character is Lane Fallon, an English spy of several aliases whose romantic spell Rose cannot seem to shake off, regardless of his apparent misdeeds. Among the many antagonists is Rose’s cousin Preston, bent on seizing the family fortune at any cost, and one of several suspects in her father’s murder. Of special interest is the character of Cole Washington, an African-American former jockey investigating the murder of his wife during the New York City draft riots.
The deep-dive historicity of the novel’s descriptions of the upstate New York city of Saratoga Springs is among the book’s best points, and the reader is drawn into the geography, culture and politics of the time very affectingly. The gentility of the city’s equestrian culture framed against its often brutal history and corrupt politics make a compelling contrast for the several unfolding murder mysteries. The Irish cultural touches are also well supported. While at times the book seems like it could use less plot and deeper characterization, the breezy style and fast pace keep the reader’s interest.