Even those of us not raised around horses appreciate their beauty and they are never more beautiful than they are when they are running. I watch the Kentucky Derby every year, in part because of the traditions at Churchill Downs.
I have only been in attendance at one horse race but what a horse race it was! I went to the Irish Derby at the Curragh in Ireland which has much the same ambiance as the Derby in England. It was in 1970 and the winning horse was Nijinsky, named after the famous Russian dancer.
Condorena offers a review of a mystery that, like Dick Francis, brings the reader to the world of racing not seen by the usual visitor to the track.
Full Mortality by Sasscer Hill
It is the horse racing time of year with exciting events at Pimlico and Churchill Downs with the Belmont Stakes coming up so what better to do than read a racing story. Nikki Latrelle is a jockey who finds herself at the scene of two separate instances of horse murder. She has a habit of going to the racetrack when she has insomnia and this has landed her in hot water and jeopardizing her lively hood because naturally wrong place wrong time too often leads to warranted suspicion.
Nikki Latrelle works out of the Laurel Park race track in Laurel, Maryland. She has worked her way up and away from a sad past to a reputation as an excellent jockey. The night before she is due to ride a possible winner in the next day’s Venus $200,000 sweepstakes she takes a past midnight trip out to see the horse named Guilded Cage. She surprises a man who runs out of the stall and knocks her over leaving ‘Gildy’ dead.
Nikki’s main job is as an exercise rider for Jim Ravinsky who is a trainer at Laurel. He had given her a chance when no one else would. Fortunately Jim still has faith in Nikki and believes what she says. There are other trainers and barns at the Park and it is at one of these that Nikki believes there are some wrongdoings. When a second horse is found dead, along with a dead jockey and they are discovered once again by Nikki that she is denied access to the park.
Latrelle has an eye for the horses and she recognizes a few horses back at the track after she had seen them at Dark Mountain which is for most horses a stop on the way to the glue factory so she believes that some form of fraud is going on. She also finds it suspicious that the two dead horses belong to two widows who will now be collecting the death benefits of the insurance paying out now for full mortality. Full Mortality is a form of life insurance covering the horse if it dies from accidental causes, sickness, disease humane destruction and theft.
While the police are investigating the deaths, Nikki still feels She needs to help clear her name. She has retreated to a stable in a small town where a lot of fringe racing people work. But no matter how far she goes there are still race track connections to Laurel Park.
Sasscer Hill lives on a Maryland farm and has bred racehorses for many years. She is best known for her stories in the “Chesapeake Crimes” anthology series. She brings the racetrack and the surrounding characters to life. The books has a fast pace and the back story of the racing world draws the reader onto the race horses backs as they fly dow an the backstretch.
I enjoyed the story immensely and hope that there are more in this series.