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Thanks to Sue Merell for taking the time to write this review for Pale Horse.  Click the logo above to take you to the Windy City Website.


Pale Horse, the third book in James Roby’s Urban Knights series, is a fast-paced, high-stakes adventure that reads like a movie.

Although I did not read the first two books, I can tell that Roby’s hero, Jordan Noble, does not mess around with small time crooks and second-rate solutions. A former Special Ops officer in the Air Force, Noble has returned to his home town of Detroit to run Urban Knights Security with his military buddy, Eric, and two other buds: street-smart Malcolm and computer guru Don.

But Uncle Sam can’t let Noble out of his sight for long. Navy Intelligence recruits Jordan to help track down an Iraqi arms dealer who is unaware he is a walking Ebola time bomb. Saif Al-Matwalli, the arms dealer, is staying with family in the Detroit area, and the intelligence community is counting on Noble’s connections to find him before the disease he is carrying sets off an epidemic.

But even without Ebola, Al-Matwalli is a dangerous character who is using a gang of Detroit thugs to gather the makings of a serious bomb.

The situations are believable and the characters are interesting, from the tight-knit Middle Eastern family to Noble’s savvy, sometimes girlfriend, Robin. A reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Robin is in Detroit to cover a Homeland Security exercise.

Roby’s pacing is excellent. The story moves along quickly from one confrontation to another. Nothing is small potatoes here, with the latest in high tech equipment available, plenty of firepower and helicopters to drop in just when everything looks hopeless. Although these are major confrontations —leaving a football field littered with bodies in one case—the author manages to keep a sense of humor. He notes, for instance, that the outgunned Detroit street gang would rather look cool standing up and holding their guns sideways than take cover.

Roby’s real life background in the military and a personal history in Detroit give the story the ring of authenticity. With such a good story, I am disappointed that Roby did not have the copy edited. Mistakes are rampant and distracting, interrupting the flow.

I’m also confused as to why the author provides so little physical description of his characters. He is precise and detailed in so many other areas. No one drives a “car” in this book. The author always gives the make and model, whether it’s a Corvette, a BMW, or a Honda. And people don’t shoot guns, either. Roby cites the proper name of each weapon. I am sure such details are meaningful to readers who are familiar with arms and can imagine just what the gun looks like.

But we get no such details about the characters. Since “urban” is often used to describe African Americans, we can assume that the four Urban Knights are black. Some of their comments seem to confirm this suspicion, but the author never describes them as such. Occasionally the author will mention “bronze skin” in describing a character, but most of his characters get no physical description at all.

For instance, Mike Horner, a Special Ops friend of Nobel’s, appears frequently throughout the story. Yet, I was surprised three-fourths of the way through the book, when Noble tells Horner he cannot possibly understand the situation because Horner isn’t black. Specifying the races of characters may not be necessary in some books, but when race is an issue, as it often is in this story, it’s only fair to keep the reader informed.

If Pale Horse is any indication, Roby has a good knack for coming up with exciting adventures and the Urban Knights series could have a broad audience.