Review: Dark Horse by Honey Brown

Dark Horse by Honey BrownIt’s Christmas morning on the edge of the rugged Mortimer Ranges. Sarah Barnard saddles Tansy, her black mare. She is heading for the bush, escaping the reality of her broken marriage and her bankrupted trail-riding business.

Sarah seeks solace in the ranges. When a flash flood traps her on Devil Mountain, she heads to higher ground, taking shelter in Hangman’s Hut.

She settles in to wait out Christmas.

A man, a lone bushwalker, arrives. Heath is charming, capable, handsome. But his story doesn’t ring true. Why is he deep in the wilderness without any gear? Where is his vehicle? What’s driving his resistance towards rescue? The closer they become the more her suspicions grow.

But to get off Devil Mountain alive, Sarah must engage in this secretive stranger’s dangerous game of intimacy.

___

Review

I was very intrigued by Dark Horse‘s synopsis and cover when a copy arrived on my doorstep. Straight away it screamed mystery to me and naturally I wanted to uncover the heart of it. It was not what I was expecting, but is a mystery ever so?

The story started off well with Sarah being bruised up by here beloved horse Tansy as she tries to load her up. It’s not long after until she rides off up into the Mortimer ranges and is cut off from civilisation with an overwhelming flood. I think the chaos caused by the events, the descriptions and scenes filled with needing to flee, adds fuel to the story and sets you up for the mystery. You don’t know what is going to be coming at Sarah while she’s trying to escape the wrath of the flood, so too do you not know what’s coming at her when she reaches an abandoned workman’s area.

I was quite taken with the tale up until a certain point. The pain and confusion Sarah goes through creates an element of confusion for the reader that’s not necessarily unwanted. The introduction of Heath at the point of Sarah beginning to explore and setttle into her surrounds adds a wonderful depth to the mystery; their ensuing relationship dynamic made alarm bells sound in my own head.

I fell for all characters, this includes Tansy. It’s a very close knit triangle of character building and the close quarters they occupy makes it so you can’t help but warm up to each one of them. Tansy is not only a character herself, but adds dimensions to Sarah’s physical reactions, instincts, and emotions that would definitely not be there without Tansy. You can’t have this story without Tansy, that’s for sure.

It was very easy for me to side with Sarah even though she was paranoid and skittish. Of course it helped with me as I’m an animal lover and I wanted the best for Tansy. I feared for them, I cheered for them, I cared for them. More so when Heath came along and yet Heath got under my skin too. At first I was wary of him more for wanting Sarah and Tansy to be protected, but I wanted him to be too and I knew one of them had to be unhinged. It was very perplexing!

Then the dynamic changed. This was good to begin with, I wasn’t sure what was going on, there was a suspected third person, Heath came across as sly and deceitful, but Heath’s questioning makes you question Sarah too. By three quarters of the way through it was a natural inclination to question everyone and everything.

Until the ending came along… You expect a twist in a mystery, am I right? However, there’s a twist and then there’s confounding bamboozlement. I knew something was coming, I knew something was off, but I didn’t have any idea whatsoever of what that could be. I like stories where it doesn’t tell you what’s going on, but gives you little tidbits so you can make several guesses. None of my guesses were even close. I find that to be more of a hoodwink rather than a twist. That’s me though and unfortunately it’s left me unsure of the ending.

SPOILERS

I have a feeling of why though and that’s because I have no idea who these characters are any more. It’s unsettling as a reader to read almost a whole story getting to know characters, only for them to change at the end. It doesn’t have to be a significant change either, just a name change will do, or a character-altering lie unfolding, to create that sense of someone becoming a stranger.

END SPOILERS

It was refreshing to read a mystery set in Australia, that’s not overly Australian, and I’m looking forward to discovering the rest of Honey Brown’s work.

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