For my sixth book in the 2010 Global Challenge I chose the debut adult novel by New Zealand author Lindy Kelly. I first read about the book on the excellent Crime Watch blog from Kiwi crime fiction fan and journalist Craig Sisterson.
Caitlin Summerfield rushes home to Nelson on New Zealand’s South Island when she hears her mother is in a coma. Despite being a doctor there’s not much she can do for her mother’s health but she can take care of her farm. Shirley Summerfield, along with five other businesses, is in competition for a lucrative contract to provide eventing horses to an American outfit so Caitlin, helped by the farm’s neighbour Dom and a young girl who loves horses, Kasey, attempts to keep things afloat until her mother is back on her feet. Unfortunately it seems one of the competitors is using dirty tricks to get rid of the competition and a series of ‘accidents’ and near misses befall Caitlin and the horses.
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the characters in Bold Blood who, apart from the killer(s), all seem like people you wouldn’t mind meeting in real life which is not always the case in crime fiction, even with the good guys. Caitlin’s homecoming is traumatic as she doesn’t have a good relationship with her mother and she is reminded everywhere she turns of her father and younger brother who both died years earlier. Despite this though she gets stuck into the work that needs to be done and is very practical and appears to be just the sort of woman you’d want in a crisis. Dom and Kasey share similar troublesome issues with at least one parent each yet are both optimistic people who display a good dose of humour in the face of adversity which is one of my favourite things about the book. Jean is a wise older woman who has been like a mother to Caitlin and she adds a nice dimension to the book though it annoyed me that she kept trying to mend the rift between Caitlin and her mother when common sense would suggest letting sleeping dogs lie.
The main story is well crafted and, especially towards the end, very exciting. However as a mystery it’s not terribly complex (a simple process of elimination really) and while I wouldn’t quite call it a ‘cosy’ there’s not much of a procedural element to speak of either. However the people were interesting enough and events unfolded at such a pace that I was always keen to find out what would happen next to all the characters, including the poor horses. I like to see worlds different to my own depicted in fiction so enjoyed learning about the different aspects of eventing, which I assume were shown realistically as Kelly is a former participant in the sport. Very occasionally the book goes overboard with insider jargon and for me there’s a bit too much time devoted to pairing all the players off neatly in a romantic sense but these are minor quibbles with an otherwise solid story.
The book had something of a sense of its New Zealand setting including some glimpses into elements of Maori culture and some mentions of local wildlife but in the main I thought we could have been in any farming or ‘horsey’ community in the world. Though perhaps I am not familiar enough* with the place to have picked up on other things with are particularly New Zealand-ish.
Bold Blood is a fast-paced and entertaining tale with many likable characters and a humourous feel. I’d especially recommend it for animal loving readers and those who like a dash of romance with their crime.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
My rating 3.5/5
Publisher: Harper Collins ; ISBN: 9781869507336; Length 288 pages; Setting: New Zealand, present-day.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
*Yes I know it’s the closest country to me but, due entirely to my own appalling choice of boyfriends and having nothing to do with the beautiful country or its friendly people, I once spent a perfectly horrid holiday in New Zealand and tend towards panic attacks if anyone ever suggests me going back.
Bernadette – Thanks for this review. I happen to be an animal lover, and I do love horses, so this sounds very much like something I’d enjoy. I had to laugh, too, at your postscript : ). I think we’ve all had experiences like that that color our judgment for the rest of our lives…
Very good and fair review Bernadette. Like you I liked and enjoyed, but didn’t absolutely flat out love the book. It was an enjoyable read, but like you said, it felt a little straightforward or simple at times. Highlights were the characters, and for me the setting of the horse world – which as you noted, had some NZ touches, but is also universal (personally, I think that’s a good thing in a book – you won’t specific uniqueness, but also a universality that can translate across cultures).
I think in my review for Good Reading early last year I gave BOLD BLOOD 3 stars (an enjoyable read), but said horselovers should add a star. In hindsight I think 3 1/2 with horselovers adding 1/2 to 1 star would probably be more accurate.
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