Sixteen Horses by Greg Buchanan (2021) Snapshot

Intensively Dark

We follow Ilmarsh detective Nichols and Forensic Veterinarian Cooper as they called in when a farmer finds the heads of sixteen horses buried on his property. Each head posed with a single eye facing the low winter sun. They soon discover a pathogen within the soil, and many of those at the crime scene gets ill.

The little town is sent into panic and paranoia when a series of crimes follow the murder of the horses, and the detectives find themselves in a race to uncover the truth before things get worse.

I first read Sixteen Horses as an audiobook produced by Macmillan Audio from Flatiron Books and narrated by Louise Brealey. Not only is she one of my favourite narrators, I feel that she was the absolute best choice to tell this story. She is exceptionally talented, and her voice has this comforting quality. I am not sure I would have finished the book as fast if I was reading it. It would have taken me weeks, but her voice softened some of the darkness. Sixteen Horses is triggering, and her impeccably paced narration was a perfect balance. She managed to convey the grittiness of the story but alleviated a lot of the discomfort I would have felt if I was reading it with “my eyeballs.”

I had to take a break from the book a couple of times because animal abuse is a significant part of the plot. Sixteen Horses is a heavy read. That being said, it is honest about it. I knew what I was getting into, as should anyone who reads the synopsis. I recommend readers have a strategy lined up to balance out the darkness, though. For this reason, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have; there are too many triggers for me. I could compartmentalize the animal abuse, but I feel the other triggers could have been avoided. 

I am always fair in my reviews, so even though Sixteen Horses was too gruesome for me, Buchanan’s prose and character work were superb, as was the way he built the tension, atmosphere, and sense of foreboding. There was nothing happy in this book, but Greg’s writing is so compelling, I will pick up his next book (after looking up trigger warnings, though.)

Overall, This book is freaking dark. There are so many trigger warnings, and I highly suggest you check them. With that said, Buchanan delivered an intense, tightly plotted, suspenseful thriller that reads like a horror. If you can stomach dark narratives easily, you will freaking love Sixteen Horses.

wonder if it will work

Enjoyability     6

Characters       10

Ambience        10

Fairness          8

Plot                  10

Execution        7

My total rating: 4.25


Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Greg Buchanan, Macmillan Audio, and NetGalley or providing me with a copy of Sixteen Horses.

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

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