Note: Some time ago, Laura Crum and her publisher made an offer to fellow bloggers with active horse blogs – if we would review Crum's latest book – Going, Gone – we could have an advanced copy to review. Whoo hoo! Below are my thoughts.
It's refreshing to read a fiction horse book written by a horse person. The horses don't uncanningly come to the human's rescue in un-horse-like ways (they behave like horses), they don't gallop everywhere (they trot, walk, and sometimes gallop when there's danger), and there's not the pony-child "mystical" bond that keeps everyone safe. Gail McCarthy's son, Mac, wears a helmet and is on a pony rope when crossing a busy street.
This was my first Gail McCarthy mystery and Crum's 11th. I had a difficult time keeping reality (Laura Crum and her horses as described in an ongoing blog) separate from the fictional story of Gail and her horses. The thoughtful way this book is written is much like her thoughtful blog posts. The horses that enter the story are wonderfully developed and "real". I kept having to remind myself that although the horses described in the book are modeled after real animals (that she talks about in her blog)….they are fictional accounts of those horses.
Distinguishing between the story and real life pleasantly preoccupied me for the first 2/3 of the book. Part of this is because it starts out as a rather ordinary story that could BE reality. A family vacation, a choice of when is the right time to retire a horse – rather mundane things that go on in most of our lives. Don't get me wrong – this is part of the charm of the book and I enjoyed reading it over a few days as it was easy to pop in and out of as I went about my day – but it was only when the protagonist decides to do something slightly illegal (are there degrees of illegal? I like to think so…) in the last 3rd of the book that I was irreversibly sucked in.
And by "sucked in", I mean invested in the story to the degree that I couldn't stand to read it word by word, sentence by sentence. I think because the first 2/3 of the book was so real and ordinary, I really believed in the characters, and if something bad was going to happen to Gail, there was no WAY I could handle the imagery of actually reading it.
I do this with movies/tv shows too. If something scary is happening, I hit the fast forward button and watch it without sound, on fast forward. Once I know what's going to happen I rewind it and watch it normal speed with dialogue.
The last third of the book is intense, complete with a description of a horse chase that had me on the edge of my seat. I could literally taste the fear and desperately wanted everything to turn out OK. I think the reason the chase seen was so real to me is because Gail was worried about the same things I would have been worried about – the things that unless you are a horse person writing a chase scene, aren't quite captured. Galloping down hill, dealing with mud, a low branch, the sudden stop and almost flying over the horses's shoulder, dealing with a fatigued horse who isn't exactly conditioned to go flying up and down hills in the mud, and worrying about injury.
Overall an excellent read made even more enjoyable by illustrations throughout by the author of the blog "mugwumps". As a first time Gail McCarthy reader, I would have been interested in the telling of the back story and stronger character development but, probably because it's part of a larger ongoing series, wasn't deemed necessary. Overall a good "Sunday afternoon" book that is a comfortable and satisfying read. I'll be passing this book on to another horse lover and looking up Gail McCarthy in my local library.