Author: Lyndon Stacey
Publisher: Arrow, 2003
Paperback, 576 pages
First Line: Twelve hundred pounds of charging horseflesh hit the wooden railings chest high and somersaulted into the north stands.
27-year-old Ross Wakelin is in Florida trying to drink himself out of the nightmares he's having when British colleague Lindsey Cresswell offers him a fresh start with a new job riding for her uncle who has a show-jumping yard in Wiltshire, England. Ross grabs at the chance, but when he arrives at Oakley Manor, he's thrown right into the thick of it. A horse is poisoned, the overseer isn't at all friendly, one of the grooms actively obstructs Ross's every move, and a ring announcer goes out of his way to put the young rider in a very unfavorable light.
One of the owners is being blackmailed. Whenever he tries to thwart the blackmailer, one of his horses is killed or seriously injured. The owner brings Ross into this on the quiet, hoping the American can help shed light on the identity of the villain. In no time flat, things begin to escalate, and Ross's integrity isn't the only thing that's in danger.
This is Stacey's debut novel, and it shows a bit. At 576 pages, it's about 200 pages too long, and the plot creaked a bit with some well-worn devices. But the good far outweighs the awkward.
This book is a gem for anyone who loves horses and would like to know a bit more about the world of show jumping. Every time Ross schooled a horse or rode one into the ring, the story took flight and I was mesmerized. Stacey has written more books with an equestrian theme, and I look forward very much to reading more. If there are any Dick Francis fans out there, I think you'd enjoy giving Lyndon Stacey's books a try, too.