Alison Hart: Whirlwind
Laurel-Leaf/Random House, £4.54
(price on Book Depository)
Shadow Horse (£4.45) has now been re-issued, and is also available via Book Depository.
Thank you to Alison Hart for sending me a copy of this book.
Readers of this blog will know that I am very keen on Shadow Horse, to which Whirlwind is the sequel. That book I found enthralling: it's the story of how 13 year old Jas comes to be in a courtroom, accused (and later convicted) of attacking her grandfather's employer. Hugh Robicheaux breeds horses, which Jas helps him to show. Hugh is, however, interested in making far more money than he can do legitimately through selling his horses, so hatches an insurance scam. He buys ringers for his horses; arranges for the ringer to be killed, and then claims on the insurance. This he does with Jas's favourite horse, Whirlwind.
All this, in the first book, Jas finds out. In the first book, there's a lot of pyschological tension: Jas is hostile, defensive, opinionated and comes through the course of the book to accept some of the help she's offered, and to thaw out. Besides the enthralling plot, it's in Jas herself that a lot of the interest lies.
This sequel comes to tie up the loose ends that were left at the end of the story: although Jas and her friends had found out what Hugh was up to, they certainly hadn't stopped him, and Whirlwind's fate was still unknown. When Whirlwind opens, Jas is very close to being released from being tagged and on curfew. The insurance company's case against Hugh, for a scam involving a horse Jas rescued, is collapsing. Jas's grandfather is due to return to live with her and her foster mother, after rehabilitation for the effects of his stroke. The very survival of the rescue Miss Hahn, Jas's foster mother, runs, is under threat through Hugh Robicheaux's exertion of his influence on local businesses who have sponsored the rescue, and the fate of Jas's beloved Whirlwind is still unknown.
The problem is that what this book does is tie up loose ends: we've already had the resolution of a lot of the psychological dramas in the first book, and Jas doesn't really seem to have anywhere to go and develop in this book: granted she is still prone to bolting rather than confronting her demons, and is not good at accepting help, but the narrative drive to reach a conclusion and confound Hugh seems to thrust the character driven fascination of the first book into the background. It's still a good read: Alison Hart drives the plot forward and is excellent at maintaining the tension. There were times when I was on the edge of my seat wondering whether Jas would wriggle out of a particular situation or not. She's still the same feisty character she was in the first book, and there is a new character in the shape of a wonderful private detective, Marietta Baylor, who deserves a series all her own.
If you enjoyed Shadow Horse you will undoubtedly enjoy finding out how the story resolves: will you want more from Jas than you get? I don't know. I look forward to finding out what other readers think.