If Wishes Were Horses by Tim Hemlin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Neil Marhsall is a graduate student in the University of Houston's creative writing program and a promising young poet.
However, facing a financially and emotionally draining divorce has him worried about more than paying tuition. So, to make ends meet, Neil moonlights as a chef for a high-society caterer.
Just when Neil's life seems bleakest, his oldest friend, racehorse breeder Jason Keys, is murdered. And Neil becomes the prime suspect.
To avenge his friend, clear his name, and rescue a missing championship thoroughbred, Neil infiltrates the dark underworld of horse theft and illegal breeding.
Neil's friends -- his attractive writing teacher, his cooking colleagues, and a freckle-faced teenage horsewoman -- offer their support. But their cheers quickly turn to gasps when Neil becomes the hunted
It is a classic whodunit with plenty of red herrings. It is book one of a series where hero is a reluctant detective. Why? Because he is the prime suspect in murder of his friend.
Nothing is going right in Neil Marshall our hero’s life either on personal or professional front. He is on the verge of divorce with his wife, Susan. He is studying in college and pursuing literature. His mentor is a pig. He is falling for a married woman, Keely Cohen. He is financially broke and working in a restaurant. So he is already in deep shit. As her wife threw him out of the home he is bunking with his best friend, Jason Keys. Jason is a horse breeder and has a large farm. To add to his miseries Jason is killed and Neil is a prime suspect. Why? Because Jason has made him the executor of his will and left his farm and all to Neil. Neil is in dire straits. The rest of the book is about finding the real killer.
I was hooked to the book from page one and kept me hooked till end. This is a welcome break from dull forensic heavy murder mysteries. What sets it apart that it has other elements of interests also. Neil has his own troubles with his wife. And the he is falling for Keely Cohen which adds humor and a bit of romance to proceedings. The book also has details on horse breeding and high stakes in this field.
Some clichés of the whodunit are present in this. First the hero is framed in the murder. Second the over jealous, good for nothing detective. There are many red herrings.
All in all a very good mystery. Some passages which I liked are posted here:
1. For a moment I was silent. Then Susan’s final words darkened my mind the color of a deep bruise. “Go on,” she had screeched, “listen to your friend instead of your wife. Be poor. No one reads poetry anymore. You’ll always be a second-rate cook, serving others, and slowly disappearing from life.” Anger of the spurned.
“It’s amazing I got a hold of a change of underwear and a clean shirt,” I muttered more to myself than to Jason.
“Speak up, Neil.”
“Oh, Susan wouldn’t let me take anything. I wanted my collection of Beatles albums. You know, with the pirated copy of the 1965 Houston concert. But I would’ve had to use physical force to get the records
2. The morning sky was bleached blonde and the day felt just as cheap. My fights with Susan had been like an alcoholic battling the bottle: love of a destructive force. As bad as the marriage was, though, it still ripped through my soul, leaving me shaky. Six years of life couldn’t be changed over six weeks of hashing it out, or in six hours after the break. This was the beginning of convalescence.
3. I wondered if all women were abusive or if my luck included constant contact with two of the species’ finer examples. Then I thought of Sondra, my soft-spoken writing buddy, and Keeley Cohen, the talented and kind associate professor. No, Claudia and Susan were just my luck. Dumb luck.
4. In the ensuing silence, I wished I hadn’t rehashed the murder. The heaviness that set in made me feel like my bones were full of lead instead of marrow. Or like I had no soul and was left to salvage this overweight, smoky-lunged mortal coil. I lay down on the couch, fully clothed, and remembered I hadn’t eaten anything all day. Maybe there was something in the refrigerator. No, no, I wanted my own food. In a minute I’d brave the rain again and get a burger or pizza. Chase it with a beer. Or six. Smoke a cigarette. I wondered how the Oilers fared.
Recommendation and rating:
I would recommend it to those who like to read a classic whodunit. I give the book 4/ 5 stars.
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