Murder in Midwinter, by Fleur Hitchcock, is a gripping page-turner, which hooks you in from the start. Described by The Times as a “hard-boiled crime novel for beginners”, it has action, suspense, danger and excitement on almost every page.
Maya, a schoolgirl in London, gets tangled up in a violent and dangerous crime when a snapshot she takes on her phone contains evidence that could put a criminal behind bars. Maya fears that the criminal will pursue her and after several frightening events, it is clear that Maya is no longer safe in London. The police suggest she should go to stay with her aunt and surly cousin at their pony trekking centre in rural Wales.
There is a slight lull in the action while Maya settles into her temporary home, but Maya is not bored. With the exhilaration of a deep snowfall, and the feeling of safety it brings, Maya starts to relax. She learns to ride horses and begins a tentative friendship with her cousin. But it is false security and soon, she finds herself running – and riding – for her life.
If you are looking for an edge-of-your-seat drama, you’ll love this book. Don’t be fooled by the serenity of the beautiful cover, illustrated by Robert Ball. While Maya does indeed trek through the snow with a dog, it is the horses that really make this story special – especially the grumpy, biting and stubborn Samson. This is not a ‘pony book’ but the horses are really important part of the ensemble of characters. As Maya and Samson ride towards their fate, I was torn between being desperate to read on and not wanting to find out if the worst happens! Its been a while since I’ve cared this much about an animal in a story.
The story unfolds well and the last chapters are a blur of excitement. Murder in Midwinter is a great adventure with a modern feel and characters that are up-to-date. I particularly like the use of the rural location and bad weather to remove Internet and telephone access – a great way to heighten the tension.
Murder in Midwinter is a fabulous read for anyone who likes mystery, crime, adventure and horses. I just wish Samson had made it to the front cover!
More can be found about Fleur Hitchcock and her other novels here.