cover image DARK HORSE


Tami Hoag, . . Bantam, $26.95 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-553-80192-7

The professional horse world, as seen through Hoag's eyes, is full of intrigue, glitter and skullduggery. Elena Estes is a former cop whose bravado on the force resulted in a colleague's death; it also cost her her job and her self-esteem, not to mention the psychological and physical fallout from nearly being shot. She's been keeping a low profile at a friend's Florida ranch, but her world is disrupted when 12-year-old Molly Seabright, wise beyond her years, attempts to hire Elena to find her older sister, Erin, who has been missing for two days. As Elena digs deeper into Erin's disappearance, the dark side of the horse-show set is revealed. Hoag (Night Sins; Dust to Dust), herself an experienced equestrian, shows off her dressage-to-showing knowledge of the sport as she weaves behind-the-scenes tidbits—about the training, competitions, horse brokers and grooms—into a plot that gallops along. Though she is a master of suspense, the story falters when a major secret about the kidnapping is exposed. There are too many bad guys who may be in on the scheme, and readers will feel cheated by the improbable 11th-hour revelation. It's too bad Hoag felt the need to undercut her plot with schemes and counterschemes, since she finds plenty of tension in the equestrian world she examines here and doesn't need the contrivance. Nonetheless, she has enough skill and drawing power to propel this, her 10th book, onto bestseller lists. Major ad/promo. (Aug. 27)