Horse-whispering with an English accent, in a mild-mannered second thriller from Stacey (Cut Throat, 2003).
Nothing magical or even extraordinary about it, swears Gideon Blake; it’s merely that he has horse empathy. It means he can soothe a beast with just the right blandishments crooned into a terrified ear. And, in a way, it explains why he’s accosted in the dead of night, slugged, blindfolded, handcuffed, and dragged from his home into confrontation with a snorting, stomping stallion. “You sort horses, don’t you,” snarls one of his captors, and Gideon—warily, artfully—sets about doing just that, it having been made clear to him how limited his choices are. Sorting completed, the horse, docile now, is taken from him, and Gideon—still blindfolded and handcuffed—is removed to some unidentifiable place and released. What was it all about? Was the stallion stolen? He has no clue. Nor, when he recounts his tale to them, do the Dorsetshire police, not that they seem terribly interested. There follows a series of untoward events as the uncluttered life of a moderately successful painter of animal portraits takes an unsettling turn. On a deserted road, for instance, car broken down, there’s Rachel—a young woman desperately frightened, though she won’t say of what. Gideon, the stuff of knights-errant, befriends her anyway, an act frowned on by her thug of an ex-husband. Suddenly, local toughs are making threats of violence. People Gideon likes behave in ways uncharacteristic of them. A fire, certainly arson, almost does in his sister and her lover. The murderous trap set for Gideon snaps shut on someone else—lethally. Is all this really unconnected to the fateful night of Gideon’s kidnapping? Can an English horse-whisperer gentle an Arabian steed? You betcha.
Quixotic Gideon, endlessly sweet-natured, is easy to like, but halfway through you may yearn for a harder edge.