Sunday, March 15, 2009

Triple Threat
(The Galloping Detective #1)
Claire Birch
1991, Yearling - Dell (Bantam)

Lucy Hill and Jenny Lovett split their time between Up And Down Farm, and Mrs. Lovett's tack shop, the Saddlery. Lucy's blissfully involved with rehabbing the nervous jumper Triumph and teaching her first beginner class, while Jenny's concentrating on her horse Curtain Call and her widowed mom's attempts to begin dating. Both girls are working on making Jenny's little brother into a rider in time for a lead line class at the next horse show. When there's a break-in at the Saddlery, the girls investigate, and what they find takes them back to Mrs. Lovett's new beau.

A very authentic feel is established from the first page when Lucy eats her heart out about the Maclay Medal, and the ease of writing is established by the simplicity and completeness of the explanation of same:

To win the Maclay Finals was the highest goal for a Junior hunt-seat rider.

Granted, you do need to know the implication of both 'Junior' and 'hunt-seat' but it's fairly obvious that little girls drawn to horse books would either know already, or be motivated to find out.

Much of the book is a mystery, and a lot takes place off-horse, which is always a danger sign in a horse book. But the riding sequences are satisfying.

She cantered a circle and opened up to the first jump, but somehow Triumph wasn't set up right and took an extra small stride, then hit the fence with his front feet. She rode him hard so he wouldn't run out at the next fence, but they were both off balance at the jump. As they pounded along, she tried to get it together before the second line of fences, but pressed too hard with her legs. Triumph responded with a series of small bucks before heading into the jump. From then on Lucy felt out of control and disgusted with a sloppy ride.

I have some quibbles; the punctuation is off, and the details are somewhat alienating for those not in the hunt-seat know.

There are no fat villains, no horse abusers, the antique store owner is not gay, and there is no romance for the girls. Astonishing. Overall, a higher-quality series than most.

Cover Oddities
The cover painting of a grey horse rearing very daintily, while a girl in very formal show clothes hauls on the reins from the ground is odd in various ways. The horse and girl are not sized normally, unless the horse is supposed to be a pony that would be rather small for the girl to ride. The stirrups are so tiny even a child couldn't use them, and the reins are split and incredibly long. There's a creepy ghost-man with binoculars floating in the dark background, which doesn't fit the story (neither do the show clothes or the horse) and the banners are simply odd. I'm sure there's more - oh, you know, the horse isn't wearing a saddle pad at all, just the saddle on his bare back, the horse's proportions just look odd, and the braids look more dressage than hunters.

Kaelie - Irish Thoroughbred mare
Kaelie II - foal
Triumph - brown gelding project horse
Curtain Call aka Curt - Thoroughbred gelding
Sarge - lesson horse
Pirate - pony
Copper Penny
Steel Man
Robocop - hunter

Other animals
Widget - old cat

Other books in series
Tight Spot
Collision Course
Double Danger
False Lead

Horse Show
Missing Daddy

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