Sunday, June 20, 2021

A Racing Murder (Ham Hill Murder Mysteries #2), by Frances Evesham

Boldwood Books, ISBN 9781800480759, June 2021

Belinda Sandford and Alex Deacon are two young women, aspiring racing jockeys, working for different stables, and racing against each other in their first professional race.

Belinda and her horse cross the finish line first, but Alex claims that Belinda's brief drift to the right before correcting to resume her correct lane caused her to pull up her own horse--that Belinda cheated. After a Stewards' hearing, Alex is declared the winner.

A few hours later, Alex is found dead, drowned in a horse trough.

The local police are investigating, but Belinda's mother, is a nervous, panicky type, and is worried that Belinda will look like the obvious suspect. She asks Adam Hennessey, the retired police detective who owns the local pub, The Plough Inn, to look into it--to clear Belinda's name.

Soon Adam, his friend Imogen Bishop, who owns the local high-end hotel, her possible new love interest, the noted painter Daniel Freeman, and Imogen's friend and Adam's possible new love interest, freelance reporter Steph Aldred, are investigating, sharing resources and clues.

For all of them, it's an introduction to the sometimes strange world of professional horse racing, beyond the casual level of just watching a race. Belinda's mother is a member of the syndicate that own the horse Belinda was riding. Alex was dating a former boyfriend of Belinda's. Alex's uncle by marriage has been using Alex as a great source of racetrack gossip--not necessarily all legitimately acquired. He also took the post-race picture of Belinda and Alex at exactly the right moment, when Alex had been needling Belinda into a state of rage. Belinda kept her lid on, but the picture was explosive.

There are other members of the syndicate, of course--a high-powered, "anything to win" attorney, and a highly-regarded anesthesiologist, and their wives. The attorney seems quite ruthless. The anesthesiologist seems a bit too fond of the young, female jockeys and grooms--but he was at the hospital, called in for an emergency case--right?

It's all very tangled, and the friends are making progress slower than they like. In addition, they're giving each other crossed signals on the potential romantic involvements, as Imogen and Adam, in particular, have painful experiences in their pasts and don't want to get hurt again.

And I see I haven't even mentioned Harley, Imogen's dog, a stray who originally turned up at The Plough Inn, and remains fond of both Imogen and Adam. Harley, I have to say, is a fine dog, of mostly excellent manners, and a true hero.

All of this barely touches on the characters and their relationships, and the amount of believable, satisfying character development that goes on even as they all struggle to solve the case.


I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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