Sixteen Horses is the debut novel by Greg Buchanan and it’s a pretty dark crime story. Any fan of detective novels will have read about lots of murders, probably including mutilations, but Sixteen Horses is a bit different. The victims of the crime aren’t people, they’re horses – 16 of them, of course.
Set in a dying seaside town, the heads of 16 horses are found, partially buried, all with one eye pointing to the sun. Who would kill and mutilate the horses, and why? Detective Alec Nichols and forensic vet, Cooper Allen, set out to investigate.
They encounter farmers and horse owners who all seem to have something to hide. There are missing horses, missing people, teenagers who are unwilling to talk and plenty of unreliable witnesses.
And then things start to get even worse… It seems they are investigating far more than 16 dead horses.
The rural seaside setting is suitably claustrophobic, and Alec Nichols and Cooper Allen seem almost as mysterious as their suspects. Alec is an unwilling single dad, who doesn’t understand his teenage son. Cooper has chosen to work with dead animals, rather than living ones.
There are no particularly nice characters. I didn’t even warm to the two leads, but that all enhances the atmosphere of the story. It feels like literally anyone in the town could be responsible for what happened to the horses and what happened next.
I definitely didn’t see the ending coming and it was one of those which made me question myself and really think through what had happened, and what I might have missed along the way.
If you’re a fan of crime and detective stories, you will enjoy Sixteen Horses. It might be set in a small rural community, but it definitely isn’t cosy crime! It is dark, atmospheric and at times quite complex, but also pretty easy to read.