Piqued at not being able to ride her prize mount in an international three-day event, a Brandywine Valley horse breeder sticks her patrician nose into a murder.
It’s hard to tell what Tink Elledge is most peeved about: her first two husbands’ numerous infidelities, her own stupidity at marrying unfaithful jerk No. 2 not once but twice, her inability to bear children, her current husband Charlie’s refusal to divulge the source of his obviously substantial income, or said husband’s opposition to her continuing to ride following an accident that caused her substantial nerve damage. She spends equal time whining about all five of the above, sometimes in real time and sometimes in flashbacks. Whatever the combination of ingredients, it’s obviously tough to be “able to treat privilege and expensive surroundings as if they were mundane matters of course, her everyday due.” Win Guthrie has it even tougher. His horse, Quick Fix, burns up in a truck fire along with trainer Joe Terrell. Still, he has three entries in the Brandywine International Three-Day, including Secret Formula, Quick Fix’s sister. Tink worries that her own Exit Laughing, piloted now by young Alejandra Delgado, won’t stand a chance against Guthrie’s horses. But as race day grows closer and Tink heads down to Maryland—which has inexplicably moved directly below Philadelphia—she starts to mull over the fire and the subsequent disappearance of young apprentice Patty McLaren, Alex’s roommate. Soon Tink is swiping house keys and rifling through tack rooms, all in search of a killer who wants to ensure that she doesn’t reach the finish line.
Menino, who knows a lot more about horses than about geography or police procedure, gets hopelessly snarled in basic stylistics—narrative vs. flashback, first person vs. third person—in antipathetic Tink’s inglorious debut.