From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Firmly rooted in the smells and sounds of a particular place, the language of the racetrack, like Yiddish, is rich in the ironies and heartbreak of daily living. Gordon knows that language and brings it to vivid life in this moving and lyrical tone poem about the inhabitants of the backside at a no-account West Virginia racetrack called Indian Mound Downs. The equilibrium of life for the grooms, trainers, small-time owners, and even the horses that populate the backside's shed rows is disrupted by the arrival of a frizzy-haired girl and her peculiar boyfriend, who plans to run his aging horse at the track. Nothing odd about that, particularly, but with the girl's arrival, Medicine Ed, a 73-year-old groom who has spent his entire life as a racetracker, has a funny, goofered feeling about the way things was going. Ed, who earned his moniker making goofer juice, which has startling effects when rubbed on a horse about to run, is rarely wrong about such things. As the inevitable plays itself out over a novel structured around four horses (including the titular Lord of Misrule) running in four races, we come to feel not only the idiosyncratic camaraderie shared by the backside inhabitants but also the special rhythm of life lived near the fly-loud barn. This is not the world of Seabiscuit or Secretariat, where the right horse winning the right race makes everything good; this is a goofered world ruled by misrule. But sometimes, as Gordon tells it, the smell of pine tar and horse manure can function like a devil's tonic. Words can do that, too, as this nearly word-perfect novel makes abundantly clear.--Ott, Bill Copyright 2010 Booklist