Fiftyish Canadian Russell Walker writes "The Fifth Horseman" opinion column twice a week for the Globe and Mail national newspaper, but recently has found no joy in his work or his personal life, which he admits has been very good. As Russell hides inside his remote home on Heron Island near Vancouver, he is depressed and thinking about committing suicide as he has ever since his beloved wife and companion for over three decades Susan recently died.
Russell's college acquaintance Zandor "Smelly" Zudenigo arrives needing help. In 1967, Russell met Smelly, an Einstein clone, who could read minds. Zandor needs Russell, the only mind that the genius can tolerate for more than a nanosecond as reading minds devastates the gifted; this skill turned him into a hermit. A low flying plane over his deserted island enabled Zudie to read the brain of a serial killer planning his next murder. He needs Russell to serve as his intermediary with the cops. Russell is blown away by the police categorizing him as a nut; only police officer Hilda Mandic helps, but though they close in on the killer, he is ready to become their predator.
This fantastic paranormal serial killer tale contains four key characters, who seem genuine whether they are depressed, can read and influence minds, have doubts but take a chance, or just sadistically brutal. Russell tells the tale so the audience gains greater insight into him than the others as he somewhat filters how the remaining trio appears. Joyfully, Spider Robinson not so subtly hints this team will return.