Arrow, 2004 (2003)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
he front of this racing mystery calls it the '
closest to taking Dick Francis' crown
'. Though this claim has been made before (and statements like this generally put me off), after reading
, I have to agree.
irst of all, Lyndon Stacey paints an unusually intriguing hero. Gideon Blake is an artist (specializing in racehorse portraits) and an animal behaviorist, his almost magical skills compared to those of a
. He lives in the Gatehouse of Graylings Priory, where his friend Giles and Giles' sister Pippa live. The story opens with a violent and mysterious bang, as our hero is suddenly kidnapped and forced to catch and calm a stressed horse while blindfolded. Though he survives the daunting experience with only severe bruises, his curiosity is aroused. The story continues in a masterful piece of plotting that would have done Dick Francis proud.
ideon visits his dancer sister Naomi, to find her involved with a veterinarian, Tim, in establishing an animal shelter. Unfortunately, they're having trouble with the neighbors - big trouble. It starts with theatening letters, and continues with arson and attempted murder. Another plot thread involves lovely, young, partially deaf Rachel, whom Gideon befriends and takes on as a temporary guest in his home. She turns out to have a viciously abusive ex, recently released from jail. Something's happened to mar the relationship between stud owner Tom Collins and his wife Mary, both old friends of Gideon's. There's also a cute, cocky little girl named Jez, related to villains, and a veterinarian with a troubled conscience.
ll these plot threads are slowly pulled together in a thrilling conclusion - '
Lust, betrayal and murder in darkest Dorset
' according to Giles - as Gideon tries to bring justice to the bad guys while avoiding ruining innocent lives in the process.
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