Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Orphan by Harry Haines

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Orphan by Harry Haines. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Orphan by Harry HainesBuy from

Orphan by

Mayhaven Publishing (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-932278-56-7 (1932278567)
ISBN-13: 978-1-932278-56-9 (9781932278567)
Publication Date: June 2008
List Price: $26.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): In a horrific vehicular accident twenty miles west of Amarillo, Texas, veterinarian James Robert Masterson steps out into the night to find the sole survivor is a very young colt. As there is no one to take charge of the frightened animal, Masterson agrees to take him home to his ranch in Bushland, Texas. He and his wife tend “Orphan,” never dreaming he will play a significant role in their daughter’s life—and in theirs.

When a suspicious gambler from Albuquerque, and the pushy ex-wife of the owner, claim the horse, the mystery begins. Interwoven in this mystery are murder, battles in the court, a life and death struggle with cancer, music, and . The reader will travel to the beautiful horse country of Kentucky, and to the impressive Ruidoso Downs, home of the much sought-after All-American Futurity, the world’s richest horserace. They will also see the seamier side of horseracing driven by greed.

Review: Harry Haines crafts a novel of love, greed, and murder in Orphan, a book so beautifully written that it should be kept near to be cherished again.

A tragic accident has occurred on the highway to Amarillo, Texas. An old pickup truck pulling a horse trailer with a mare and her colt collides with a car and is overturned. The drivers are dead, and the mare has internal damages. The colt, about two weeks old, manages to get out of the trailer unscathed, but stays close to be with his dying mother. Dr. Jim Bob Masterson, on his way home to his ranch in Bushland, comes upon the wreckage. Masterson has his cattle trailer hitched to the truck. The police on the scene recognize him and ask him to talk the colt to his ranch for a few days until they find the owner’s relatives. This begins the one aspect of the mystery in this story: who actually owns the colt, a thoroughbred horse, who Jim Bob names Orphan?

Separately, Liz Masterson, Jim Bob's daughter and aged twenty-five, is making her starring debut in the Metropolitan Opera’s “Madam Butterfly”. After a beautiful performance in the first act, it is announced that she is ill and will not be able to return for the remainder of the performance. The reason: Liz is diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. When she is able to be brought home she bonds with the colt and the colt with her. All is going well for Liz until two people come demanding possession of the colt. One is the ex-wife of the truck driver and the other a billionaire who knows the history of Orphan. The stress of a court trial becomes too much for Liz and her remission has reversed itself. Realizing this colt had much to do with Liz’s health, Jim Bob fights for the right to keep him. The judge, however, says he must be put up for auction. How can Masterson compete with a billionaire? Or even a wife who has a will stating the horse is hers?

Haines is brilliant in his depth of development of the characters in Orphan. Each is brought to life in such a way that they bond with the reader. When Liz's parents realize that, after mortgaging everything they have to bid at auction for Orphan, they will be easily outbid by the billionaire, it's both heartbreaking and uplifting. This family loves, laughs, and cries together. It is a joy to read such a wonderful story within a mystery and especially one that doesn't need to resort to bad language or unnecessary violence to accomplish its goal. Orphan is one of the best books of the year.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of Orphan and to Book Trends for providing an ARC of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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