Book Review: Girls and Their Horses by Eliza Jane Brazier
What turns a hobby into something all-consuming? For the Parker family, joining Rancho Santa Fe Equestrian did just that. In Eliza Jane Brazier’s newest novel, Girls and Their Horses, the stables of Rancho Santa Fe, California become the catalyst for an obsession that ends in murder.
The Parker family moves to California for a new start, driven by Heather Parker’s crumbling marriage and the incessant bullying of her youngest daughter, Maple. Heather feels that the courage and self-esteem Maple needs can be developed through joining a stable—and not just any stable. RSFE is the most private and elite in the area and is run by Kieran—a hard and talented trainer who has the final word on every person and horse that enters. While Maple seemingly has no desire, or skill, for equestrian riding, Heather is determined to use her husband’s new wealth to turn that around:
“I don’t know why you tried to put her off,” Kieran said.
“I told you, I didn’t know who she was. She was wearing all this tacky Texas gear. But she’s nouveau riche.”
“My favorite fucking kind. Before they realize how dangerous money really is.”
Upon joining RSFE, Heather and Maple Parker begin to feel as though they are part of a family. All the young girls spend their days together riding and grooming the horses, and all the mothers spend their time watching and gossiping. One mother and daughter in particular, Pamela and Vida, become intertwined with the lives of Heather and Maple. However, as the “friendship” grows, so does Heather’s steady suspicion that Pamela and Vida’s relationship with them is powered by more than just kindness:
“Let’s just wait it out,” Pamela said as she turned into the parking lot. “Let’s stay friends with little Maple and just keep our eyes peeled and see what happens.”
Vida was already miles ahead. Sometimes her mind and her heart were like wild horses running away with her. She knew what she wanted, and she was seized with bright, impulsive ways to get it.
The entanglement of the members of RSFE all comes to a head at the Southern California International Horse Show. This is the very event that Brazier begins her novel with, enticing the reader with a death at a prestigious horse show. While the reader does not know who has died, it is clear it is someone from RSFE and that the Parker’s arrival to the stable is what set all the wheels in motion:
Detective Perez had noticed that the easiest way to get horse people talking was to get them talking about horses.
“Having a horse is a little like being a parent, isn’t it?” Amy said. “I think a lot of our job is just fixing the problems that we actually cause…” She drifted off, as if she might have said too much.
But the police weren’t there because someone had hurt a horse. They were there because someone was dead.
Girls and Their Horses brilliantly mixes a coming-of-age with a crime thriller where every character is the lead. Kicking off with an unnamed death, Brazier then bounces from character to character every chapter—pulling the reader deeper into the world of equestrian riding and the complexities that come with it. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that every character has a motive to kill. Brazier challenges the reader to uncover which motive is strong enough and which character is driven enough to commit that crime. You’ll have to find out the answer to that for yourself when you pick up this book. Following Good Rich People, Brazier does not disappoint with another page-turner in Girls and Their Horses.