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13 January 2012

paperback, published Arrow Books in 2004. Reviewed by Lyn McConchie.

Yes, I recently purchased this book full-price, but that was for a reason. Three months earlier I raided one of our charity shops and discovered two Lyndon Stacy softcover (tradepaperback) books for 50c each. At that price how can you lose? I bought both books, took them home, spent a very happy evening reading until all hours – and discovered another writer who can write convincingly about the world of horses.
(Something that’s infuriated me (in fantasies) before now. It’s amazing how often it’s clear that the author has read a book and assumed that s/he now knows all about riding and horses. S/he doesn’t! I’ve seen books in which a grass-fed horse is ridden for day after twelve-hour day without a break, in which a horse is galloped for hours and comes up fresh as a daisy after a half an hour rest. One in which a small light woman riding barebacked at a full gallop, scoops a good-sized adult male onto her 16-hand stallion without even slowing. Oh please… and it annoys me.)
Lyndon Stacy doesn’t fall into any of the obvious traps, and manages to tell a very good mystery at the same time. I really liked the two I bought so much that I promptly phoned Barbara’s Books up in Auckland (a wonderful shop with even more wonderful owners) and asked for two more Lyndon Stacys. They arrived over Christmas and I read them both. She does tend to go in for tomes, Deadfall is close to 500 pages, and while I felt that perhaps a small amount of judicious pruning might have been good – that’s me, I prefer books that are a little shorter – but this was still an excellent example of the sub-genre of “horse mysteries.”
Most notable in this sub-genre is of course, Dick Francis and now his son Felix, there’s also John Francombe, John Welcome, and a handful of others. The interesting thing about Stacy being that while most of the other writers came to writing from being professional riders, this author didn’t, and it hasn’s affected her ability to write most convincingly about racing, eventing, steeple-chasing or show-jumping, at all.
So, Deadfall. The story begins with Lincoln Tremayne arriving after dark at the place where he keeps his horse, to be run off the road by an unidentifiable vehicle traveling at high speed and with no regard for other road users as it leaves the property. Simmering with anger, he enters his stable to discover that it’s been burgled, a lot of expensive horse tack stolen, and, worse still the young daughter of the owner is lying unconscious, having been struck down by the thieves. Much excitement ensues. Frantic parents, concerned older sister, ambulance, and suspicious police who’d like to know just when Tremayne actually arrived.
It isn’t the first time that stables have been plundered. Good quality horse gear is expensive, hard to identify, and easily re-sellable. (Something that probably applies in almost any country.) The question is – once Lincoln Tremayne starts digging – which assorted other incidents are related to the attack on Abby Hathaway, who is now in a coma in hospital with her recovery uncertain? And then Lincoln discovers that the replacement bridle-bit he has bought for his eventing horse, Noddy, is actually his own property, an item that was amongst those stolen when Abby was attacked.
It goes on from there, he’s attacked, threatened, attacked again, and threatened some more, throughout most of which events he’s also completed bewildered. He doesn’t think he’d been doing anything to bring all this down on him, so why it is happening? There is a very nice family background, both of his and of the Hathaways, side excursions into the dog-racing world, and that of Stately Homes open to the public. The author serves up a good mystery, involving characters, and backgrounds with interesting sidelights. All four books thus far have gone onto my “permanent shelves section”, I’m expecting another of her “horse mysteries” and I’m also considering other books by the writer which are not set so solidly in this “horse” sub-genre, because she can write.

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