Love eventing? Love racing? Don’t miss this book on World Book Day…

In this brand new book Deadly Odds, written by Jean Chapman, ex-Met Inspector John Cannon detects an ulterior motive when he finds himself invited to the local horse trials. Many twists and turns and deadly outcomes await Cannon as he finds himself immersed in the ruthless ambitions of the equestrian world. From eventing in rural England, to the world famous Kentucky Derby, local tragedies, murder, kidnap and the inheritance issue of a family fortune all await in this thrilling detective tale.

Inspiration struck highly regarded novelist, Jean Chapman for this, the fifth instalment of the John Cannon crime novels, while watching Imogen Murray at Withington Horse Trials. Mother of one of Imogen’s owners, Phillipa Snow, Chapman watched Imogen and Tomgar Jess (pictured top) compete at Withington and took specific inspiration from the open ditch, that is no longer in use at the event. The grey horse described in the opening pages is that of Tomgar Jess, with Imogen providing inspiration for Archie Granger’s character.

Imogen says: “It is quite flattering to inspire a book character, well, apart from the falling off bit that is. Jean is an incredible writer and the books are very gripping! Deadly Odds starts in eventing and moves to racing but it full of twists and turns, it is really good, I’ve read the whole series.”

In this extract, taken from the book, Cannon is visiting his first ever horse trials:

He glanced around; he guessed the countryside, and the eighteenth-century mansion at the far side of the estate, would be picturesque if you could actually see it. This morning, sheets of rain were driven across the landscape and he just occasionally glimpsed the obstacles dotted all over the distant slopes. Competitors from all over the world had come to jump these.

Hoskins, major domo of the expedition, was enveloped in the most suitable gear: a caped raincoat that reached well down over his Wellingtons and an old cap so greasy no rain would penetrate it.

Cannon had a broad brimmed rain-hat brought back from Oslo the last time he had turned from landlord of a country pub back to ex-Met sleuth. The hat was fine, and his anorak was waterproof, but his jeans were soaked from the thigh down and the water was seeping sock-wards inside his Wellingtons. He spared a thought for a woman in a see-through plastic mac trying to keep her heeled shoes on, and suddenly saw the sense of those green wellies with straps to tighten the tops – and of not listening to the propositions of elderly men like Hoskins, even though he was his best customer at “The Trap”.

He glanced at the old boy, who was watching him and grinning.

“Archie Granger’s next to go,” he told Cannon. “You’ll be glad you’ve come once you see him gallop cross-country.”

Before Cannon had thought of a suitable reply, loud screeching whistles began blowing from various parts of the course.

“Come on,” Hoskins said, “He’s off, we’ve just time to go and stand on the rise right near the lake,” adding mischievously, “it’ll be a mite more exposed up there.”

On rough slippery terrain, Alan Hoskins, the most knowledgeable countryman he knew on The Fens, and the best poacher, was difficult to keep up with. Cannon put his head down, held on to his hat, and followed him up to the top of the hillock where a small group of beeches might give some protection. They didn’t, but from this vantage point he could see that a huge log marked with pennant flags has been situated on the far side of a lake. Riders had to take their horses over this into shallow water, then further in was a full-sized overturned rowing boat which must be jumped before coming out of the water on the near side. There was then some twenty metres to cover before the riders came to the obstacle Cannon and Hoskins overlooked. The flagged monster consisted of a deep ditch the side the horse took off, with a large brush fence the other side. It all had to be taken in one leap.

“Here he comes,” Hoskins shouted and pointed to where in the murky distance a grey horse and rider came into view. Looking like miniature figures in the drenched landscape they were covering the ground at a good pace, and cleared every jump they came to without pause. “Some of these horses he’s beating cost fifty, sixty thousand pounds,” Hoskins added as they came nearer to the lake.

Cannon digested this information as he too became caught up in the action, interested in spite of himself, and held his breath for the safety of this young man Hoskins said he had known since he was junior school, and obviously cared a lot about.

The horse leapt the log into the water and at a great splashing pace, reached the upturned boat, clearing it by an impressive margin, then it was out of the water and thundering past where they stood. Cannon noted the curly auburn hair of the rider beneath his hat, the black number on the white front and back bib he wore. Come on, 339, make the old boy proud, he silently urged, as the horse snorted, pricked its ears, took stock of the obstacle and went for it.

The horse reached the open ditch, took off, but then looked as if it had wished it had not; it almost seemed to try to turn away, or back, or…

Hoskins started forward as the rider was unseated by the twisting half-turn the horse made. The onward propulsion took him over the horse’s shoulder and the jump – but the horse landed with its back legs still over the brush fence, straggled, flailing about trying to free itself.

Price: Deadly Odds can be purchased for £3.53 via Amazon.
Published by: Robert Hale, 2019

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