Fresh Meat: Murder, She Rode by Holly Menino

Murder She Rode by Holly MeninoMurder, She Rode by Holly Menino is a murder mystery involving a three-day horse competition and is the first featuring former equestrian-turned-amateur-sleuth Tink Elledge (available August 13, 2013).

While Tink Elledge attempts to put together clues to find out what exactly happened and why, she also gives the reader an introduction to the world of horse competitions.  Most readers will pick up this book because it is a murder mystery.  I had some difficulty with the actual mystery, personally wanting the action to move quicker and to have sorted itself into a murder mystery earlier than it did. I have no doubt, however, that this book will attract many people involved with or around horses, as she makes the competition a character in itself:

On Friday the sunshine found me sitting in a lawn chair beside Charlie, watching the dressage phase of the Brandywine.  Against the backdrop of brilliant orange and yellow foliage, the dressage arenas were the picture of decorum.  Riders in morning coats and top hats, horses shining like so many Lexuses in a dealer’s showroom, trotting precise, polite circles on the manicured greens.  The judges and other officials of the Fédération Equestre Internationale were much in evidence, sauntering across the lawns to their posts, men in tweeds and women in hats that had returned from an earlier part of the century.  Quite fitting, for a sport that originated in the cavalry.  A little something to keep the boys at the fort busy on Sundays.

And while the competition is the backdrop and secondary character, Menino also gives us quite a bit of insight into the mind of a person who competes with horses:

Singers sing, painters paint, and horsemen compete.  It is about meaning.  To ride a horse, you have to strike a deal with him: If you do, he will do.  If he does, you must.  Even on an ordinary day the bargain requires your complete commitment, and when it comes to competition, it is compelling – you can’t fail to put to test a horse you have conditioned for it.

Additionally, she gives us a bit of the history and tradition of this particular sport:

The tour of the course was a ritual that began with the riders, who needed a chance to check out the fences they would put their horses to so they could plan their rounds.  But over time the course walk had come to include anyone who wanted to see the terrain and the obstacles – anyone except the horses, of course, who were offered no such privilege and who, traveling at top speed over the course must blindly trust their riders and respond split-second by split-second to instructions from these pilots.

It is exceedingly clear that either the author either loves this type of competition or did a great amount of research for this book:

Cross-country day, the Test of Speed and Endurance.  It starts early and spins out with spectacular jumping and phenomenal horse-human coordination but also mistakes, missteps, bone-breaking falls, and loose horses.

While the mystery spins out, little tidbit by little tidbit, Tink ends up learning just as much about herself, her four marriages, her current husband and friends as she does the murderer.  There is one point, near the end, where—and I am resisting a spoiler here, so don’t think I’m being coy—Tink finds herself both stronger and weaker than she ever thought she could be.


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April Dawn is an avid reader who will get her nose out of a book long enough to walk the dog but frequently burns dinner due to “I’ll just read to the end of the chapter” syndrome. She reviews fantasy novels at because, hey, anything is more exciting than her everyday life!

Read all posts by April Dawn on Criminal Element.

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