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Sixteen horses dead. Each buried with a single eye facing the sun . . . In the dying English seaside town of Ilmarsh, the heads of sixteen horses are found buried in circles, with only their eyes exposed to the light of the low winter sun. The local police call upon forensic veterinarian Cooper Allen to assist with this uniquely disturbing case. In the weeks that follow, inv Sixteen horses dead. Each buried with a single eye facing the sun . . . In the dying English seaside town of Ilmarsh, the heads of sixteen horses are found buried in circles, with only their eyes exposed to the light of the low winter sun. The local police call upon forensic veterinarian Cooper Allen to assist with this uniquely disturbing case. In the weeks that follow, investigators uncover evidence of a chain of crimes in this community: disappearances, arson, and mutilations, all culminating in the reveal of something deadly lurking in the ground itself. And as the town panics, not everything in Ilmarsh is as it seems. . . Dark days follow, then Cooper finds herself working with local police detective Alec Nichols to uncover a frightening mystery. A literary thriller from a stunning new talent, Sixteen Horses is about enduring guilt, trauma and punishment, set in a small seaside community the rest of the world has left behind.


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Sixteen horses dead. Each buried with a single eye facing the sun . . . In the dying English seaside town of Ilmarsh, the heads of sixteen horses are found buried in circles, with only their eyes exposed to the light of the low winter sun. The local police call upon forensic veterinarian Cooper Allen to assist with this uniquely disturbing case. In the weeks that follow, inv Sixteen horses dead. Each buried with a single eye facing the sun . . . In the dying English seaside town of Ilmarsh, the heads of sixteen horses are found buried in circles, with only their eyes exposed to the light of the low winter sun. The local police call upon forensic veterinarian Cooper Allen to assist with this uniquely disturbing case. In the weeks that follow, investigators uncover evidence of a chain of crimes in this community: disappearances, arson, and mutilations, all culminating in the reveal of something deadly lurking in the ground itself. And as the town panics, not everything in Ilmarsh is as it seems. . . Dark days follow, then Cooper finds herself working with local police detective Alec Nichols to uncover a frightening mystery. A literary thriller from a stunning new talent, Sixteen Horses is about enduring guilt, trauma and punishment, set in a small seaside community the rest of the world has left behind.

30 review for Sixteen Horses

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paromjit

    Greg Buchanan's debut is a chilling slow burn of a literary mystery that ventures into gothic and horror territory, set in the dying English seaside town of Illmarsh with many living precarious and impoverished lives. It is bleak, atmospheric, disturbing, without a scintilla of light or hope, a novel that opens with the discovery on Well Farm of partially buried 16 horses heads with an eye facing up to the sky, with their tails nearby. Who could possibly be responsible for this macabre act, muti Greg Buchanan's debut is a chilling slow burn of a literary mystery that ventures into gothic and horror territory, set in the dying English seaside town of Illmarsh with many living precarious and impoverished lives. It is bleak, atmospheric, disturbing, without a scintilla of light or hope, a novel that opens with the discovery on Well Farm of partially buried 16 horses heads with an eye facing up to the sky, with their tails nearby. Who could possibly be responsible for this macabre act, mutilating, murdering and decapitating the horses, horses that belonged to several different owners? Investigating is police detective, DS Alec Nichols, whose wife, Elizabeth had died from cancer, living with his young son, Simon. He is helped by a forensic veterinarian, Dr Cooper Allen, an outsider initially brought in for 4 days. It turns out this terrifying event is merely an opening crime that has numerous edgy layers, past and present, and repercussions, including that of contamination and poisoning that results in a major incident. A narrative that reveals a town and people where the serial abuse, torture and killing of animals are recurrent happenings, a place where people are threatened and blackmailed, harbour secrets and hate, have mental health issues, there are numerous deaths, live fragmented despairing lives, endure trauma, guilt, grief, are irretrievably broken beyond repair, a community in which there is the presence of pure evil. None of the characters are as they first appear as the reader is hit by revelation after revelation, including Nichols and Allen. In this character driven and haunted story, there is the historical 1942 Gunard Island incineration of sheep, a government that tested weapons against sheep without cleaning up after themselves. This is a novel that I cannot in all honesty say I enjoyed, it was just too dark for me at times, with its abuse of animals and vets facing the eternal conundrum in their profession, how to save the animals from their owners, given animals have no rights. Buchanan is undoubtedly a talented author, his writing is evocative, if splintered in its storytelling. This is a compulsive, thought provoking and original novel, just do not expect it to be like normal crime and mystery reading fare, although it has its share of twists and turns. I would recommend this for those readers that seek the darkest themes and corners in humanity. Many thanks to Pan Macmillan for an ARC.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Adrian Dooley

    Where do I start with this one? A first time author I believe? If so, what a debut! Maybe not without it’s faults, and I’m sure it will not be for many people but, I was absolutely mesmerised by this. Set in the English seaside town of IImarsh, a town that is well past its sell by date and falling apart(as much the star of this book as the characters),when a farmer and his daughter discover the heads of sixteen horses buried in a circle on their land one early morning, Alec, the local detective Where do I start with this one? A first time author I believe? If so, what a debut! Maybe not without it’s faults, and I’m sure it will not be for many people but, I was absolutely mesmerised by this. Set in the English seaside town of IImarsh, a town that is well past its sell by date and falling apart(as much the star of this book as the characters),when a farmer and his daughter discover the heads of sixteen horses buried in a circle on their land one early morning, Alec, the local detective goes out to investigate. The heads are buried on their sides, all with one eye above ground, the tails in a bundle near by. Realising they need some specialist help, they call on the help of forensic veterinarian,Cooper to take a closer look. Herself and Alec reluctantly team up to try and find out what has happened and what is going on in the town. That’s all you need to know. That’s all I knew going into this. I felt I needed to read this book with a towel beside me such was the atmosphere dripping from the pages(ok I read it on kindle but the point still stands). I’ve never read a book before where the whodunnit part of the book or the mystery wasn’t that important to me. The writing. Bloody hell. I’m no literary snob, far from it, but the writing here was mesmeric. Unsettling, intriguing, oozing atmosphere, dark, gothic, pyhscotic, I could go on. It feels like this book takes place in an alternative universe. A near post apocalyptic feel to it. The book is so incredibly dark, a little like the constant chiming of a bell at a funeral. The thing is, this was hugely enjoyable to read. I’m sure if I dug down into it I could pick apart some parts, maybe even some plot holes, but it’s all irrelevant because what Greg Buchanan does is take you by the hand and lead you through a dark door and ever so slowly walks you through to the other side. Breathtakingly beautiful to read, I was trying to think of comparisons to the feeling of reading this. Maybe a David Lynch or Coen Brothers film. Or the film Se7en. Remember that? The atmosphere of that film. Every outdoor shot it was raining, every indoor shot lowly lit, that is this book. That same feeling. This is one I’d like to read again for the pure joy of it. Hard to put a tag on it. Noir? Gothic? Thriller? Police procedural? Social commentary? Who cares. Maybe a bit of all but it’s certainly it’s own beast.(pun intended) An absolute corker. Go read it. Thanks to Netgalley and Pan Macmillan for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Louise Wilson

    3.5 stars rounded up to 4 **TRIGER WARNING** ANIMAL ABUSE IS A STRONG THEME IN THIS STORY In the dying seaside town of Ilmarsh, the heads of sixteen horses are found buried in circles, with only their eye exposed to the light of the low winter sun. The local police call upon forensic veterinarian Cooper Allan to assist with this uniquely disturbing case. As the police start their investigations into the sixteen horses heads that were buried in a field, darl secrets start to emerge around the local 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 **TRIGER WARNING** ANIMAL ABUSE IS A STRONG THEME IN THIS STORY In the dying seaside town of Ilmarsh, the heads of sixteen horses are found buried in circles, with only their eye exposed to the light of the low winter sun. The local police call upon forensic veterinarian Cooper Allan to assist with this uniquely disturbing case. As the police start their investigations into the sixteen horses heads that were buried in a field, darl secrets start to emerge around the local community. The story is not easy to follow. The timeline and narratives jump around. The characters are well developed and believable. The pace is steady but the storyline is hard to read due to the frequent references to animal abuse. But there's something intriguing that keeps you reading. There's plenty of twists to keep you guessing. The story covers: animal abuse, revenge, guilt, punishment and trauma. I would like to thank #NetGalley, #PanMacmillan and the author #GregBuchanan for my ARC of #SixteenHorses in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    C.J. Cooke

    Phenomenal. Full review to follow.

  5. 4 out of 5

    my bookworm life

    3.5 ⭐️ (don’t usually give 1/2 star but this ones tricky to rate for me). 📖 New Review. [PR product] Thank you to @bookbreak @mantlepress for my copy, this book comes out 29th April 🎉 Creepy, ✅ Unique, ✅ Kept me intrigued and guessing, ✅ Zoomed through it in 2 days, ✅ Still a bit unsure how I feel, ✅ Well this was definitely different I’ll give it that, and for a chunky thing (451 pages) for me it really didn’t feel that long, the way the book is formatted it does feel shorter which I liked, but I am 3.5 ⭐️ (don’t usually give 1/2 star but this ones tricky to rate for me). 📖 New Review. [PR product] Thank you to @bookbreak @mantlepress for my copy, this book comes out 29th April 🎉 Creepy, ✅ Unique, ✅ Kept me intrigued and guessing, ✅ Zoomed through it in 2 days, ✅ Still a bit unsure how I feel, ✅ Well this was definitely different I’ll give it that, and for a chunky thing (451 pages) for me it really didn’t feel that long, the way the book is formatted it does feel shorter which I liked, but I am still a bit unsure overall on my thoughts. This is a mixture of thriller, horror, police procedural, serial killer, small town closed in vibe and a snapshot at life all thrown into one book. It has detailed descriptions of animal killings and mutilations, it has weird crime scenes involving said dead animals, it has small town troubled residents, family dramas and a big slice of weird unsettling atmosphere all the way through. No doubts that this was enjoyable, I wouldn’t have read it so quick if it wasn’t very readable and interesting, and overall entertaining but for me it was a bit muddled, it seemed clunky at times and sometimes it flicks between very vague and abrupt dialogue, to very detailed and overly strange detailed sections. The thing for me was the flow seemed a bit off, but the story kept me gripped and I did really like the writing overall. For me this was a 3.5 ⭐️, A good read that kept me entertained but overall just maybe missed the mark with a few things. But I liked how it was different to anything I’d read before which is sometimes hard to come by.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Sixteen Horses was a bit of a mixed bag for me, if I'm honest. It's intriguing premise had me quickly invested and speedily reading the first half of the novel. There was some really well-written extracts too, such as the extract below, which is as equally transfixing as it is disgusting: 'A dead man sits in a room...there is something moving inside his stomach. His right eye is no longer there. His hunger outlives him. His teeming gut, his microbiome aflame with all the bacteria and symbiotic ju Sixteen Horses was a bit of a mixed bag for me, if I'm honest. It's intriguing premise had me quickly invested and speedily reading the first half of the novel. There was some really well-written extracts too, such as the extract below, which is as equally transfixing as it is disgusting: 'A dead man sits in a room...there is something moving inside his stomach. His right eye is no longer there. His hunger outlives him. His teeming gut, his microbiome aflame with all the bacteria and symbiotic juices, they carry on. All that life within him continues consuming and breathing until it can breathe no more. He digests himself.' After half way, however, I really lost interest in this book. The narrative was very fragmented and at times became hard to follow. It was quite a disjointed reading experience which made it less enjoyable. Although many of the characters weren't 'what they seemed' they weren't fleshed out enough for me to become invested in. Upon reaching the end I felt that the author had been trying to incorporate a message but it was either one that was ambiguous and unclear, or one that I just didn't care enough to decipher. Overall, I'm a bit disappointed with this one. It had a very interesting premise, but lacked in execution. Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    *This is a review of the first 5 chapters of the book* I swear that the birds stopped tweeting and the air took on that strange silence that falls when there is an unseen predator waiting to pounce when I read these opening chapters. The atmosphere created is that good. A rundown town, a detective with a past and a vet who is still struggling to reconcile the events surrounding the crime involving the dead horses. It's dark, original and wholly captivating. I am eagerly anticipating reading the *This is a review of the first 5 chapters of the book* I swear that the birds stopped tweeting and the air took on that strange silence that falls when there is an unseen predator waiting to pounce when I read these opening chapters. The atmosphere created is that good. A rundown town, a detective with a past and a vet who is still struggling to reconcile the events surrounding the crime involving the dead horses. It's dark, original and wholly captivating. I am eagerly anticipating reading the rest of the book when it becomes available. My thanks go to the publishers and Net Galley for the advance sample in return for an honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Linda Richardson

    UPDATED August 24, 2020 This debut first captivated me while reading the 5 chapter sampler back in June and the full novel was everything I’d hoped for plus more. It’s a blend of Noir, psychological suspense, police procedural with splash of horror plus a dash of historical drama. I was fascinated with the history backstory so much that I paused my reading to do a quick dive via google for additional information. The novel is a actually a braid of multiple tightly woven storylines: (1) Alec, the UPDATED August 24, 2020 This debut first captivated me while reading the 5 chapter sampler back in June and the full novel was everything I’d hoped for plus more. It’s a blend of Noir, psychological suspense, police procedural with splash of horror plus a dash of historical drama. I was fascinated with the history backstory so much that I paused my reading to do a quick dive via google for additional information. The novel is a actually a braid of multiple tightly woven storylines: (1) Alec, the local detective, (2) the forensic veterinarian on assignment, Cooper, (3) the seaside town that’s now only a decrepit ghost standing the shadow of its former glory and (4) the villagers who are its last remaining residents. Mr. Buchanan’s writing is both vividly visual and aural, since I could not only see the stores and landscape shrouded in gothic-like fog, but I could practically hear the cracking arcade speakers playing carnival/funfair music in the background of the town. In many ways this reminded me of Broadchurch (probably because I’ve already cast David Tenant as Alec). So fans of that tv series, Hinterland / Y Gwyll as well as Shetland will love this exciting thriller. ***************************************************** Thank you Mantle / Pan Macmillan for sending me the 5 chapter sneak peek at Greg Buchanan’s atmospheric novel. I can’t wait to read the rest of the story of the investigation by Alec and Cooper!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christelle Chamouton

    What a strange and enjoyable book. A crime story, a meditation on the dying sea-front towns and enjoyable on both front. It is very different from any other crime books out there. The characters are deeply flawed and unusual as is the story. I loved it and this is an author to follow.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Maria Hall

    Sixteen Horses - Greg Buchanan Publisher Mantle Books Publication Date 13/5/21 NO SPOILERS I was invited to read an advance copy of this book due for publication in 2021 and as I love a detective mystery I thought it looked interesting. It was so much more than that. I was gripped from the beginning, but, at the 45%’ish mark it developed into something much more than your standard thriller. Beautifully written, rich in detail, dark and disturbing, I could not put it down. It just got better and bette Sixteen Horses - Greg Buchanan Publisher Mantle Books Publication Date 13/5/21 NO SPOILERS I was invited to read an advance copy of this book due for publication in 2021 and as I love a detective mystery I thought it looked interesting. It was so much more than that. I was gripped from the beginning, but, at the 45%’ish mark it developed into something much more than your standard thriller. Beautifully written, rich in detail, dark and disturbing, I could not put it down. It just got better and better, building to a stunning climax which I had to read twice to make sure I’d absorbed and understood it all. A superior and original thriller, Highly recommended. I’d like to thank the author, publisher and netgalley for providing me with this advance digital copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anne O'Connell

    I didn’t realise when I downloaded this that it wasn’t the whole book. What a tease! The beginning is so promising that I definitely want to read the rest and find out what happens. Even had the title of the book and the blurb not already told you that there was a grim scene to come, the initial scene-setting really conveyed a sense of the macabre in the atmosphere, the mud, the bleating sheep. We’re used to our lead detective having a troubled past but the first few chapters give just enough of I didn’t realise when I downloaded this that it wasn’t the whole book. What a tease! The beginning is so promising that I definitely want to read the rest and find out what happens. Even had the title of the book and the blurb not already told you that there was a grim scene to come, the initial scene-setting really conveyed a sense of the macabre in the atmosphere, the mud, the bleating sheep. We’re used to our lead detective having a troubled past but the first few chapters give just enough of a glimpse inside Alec’s mind to know that what has happened in his life is out of the ordinary. Introducing Cooper in a therapy session was a deft way of delivering exposition without it being clunky. What an intriguing start. I look forward to reading more. --- Having been given the opportunity to read the first few chapters of Sixteen Horses back in July, I almost came to wish I hadn’t: it started so well that it was torturous to leave it without knowing what happened next. So, when the full book became available, I wasted no time in taking up the story again. I like Greg Buchanan’s varied use of language: he intersperses more conventional prose and dialogue with short, sharp descriptions. It’s used to really good effect to evoke the sheer desperation of a faded seaside town used as a dumping ground for people unwanted elsewhere. The descriptions of Ilmarsh put me in mind of Stephen King’s Castle Rock: everyone has secrets, evil lurks. It’s not surprising to have a sense of foreboding at the beginning of a crime thriller but this is proper creepy. I read this really quickly, keen to find out which of these bitter and damaged people had felt so wronged that they would plot and enact such a brutal campaign. It’s bleak in the extreme but I urge you to read it – I think there’ll be a lot of buzz surrounding its release next May.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Leanne Cramond

    Not really sure where to start with this review. To be honest I almost stopped reading because of the graphic scenes early on and the way the chapters jumped around with time and people, but persevered because I felt there had to be something about this that made publishers fight over it. I am glad I did, however I am still not 100% sure what to make of it. It started darkly and just kept getting darker, yet the language and stunning writing style got me hooked. Sentences like: “Nothing in her l Not really sure where to start with this review. To be honest I almost stopped reading because of the graphic scenes early on and the way the chapters jumped around with time and people, but persevered because I felt there had to be something about this that made publishers fight over it. I am glad I did, however I am still not 100% sure what to make of it. It started darkly and just kept getting darker, yet the language and stunning writing style got me hooked. Sentences like: “Nothing in her life was what it could have been. This struck her, as she thought of her father’s shoes lying there without feet.” Also, “She was just a little girl, lost in a life of burning men.” Or “It was the problem at the heart of his profession. How to save the animal from the owner.” The book is full of phrases and commentary steeped in imagery. At first glance, this is a crime novel, but it goes much deeper than that. It is a literary discussion on the dark side of human nature and the damage people do to each other in the name of love or control or desire, or any of a million other rationalities. It is about the death of an already dying town and its people. It is about guilt and the personal demons we all have hidden from others around us and yet the reader never gets close enough to any of the characters to really understand their true motivations. You are still left at the end with the feeling that there is so much more lurking underneath. I need to go and read something lighter now, and will come back and have another read before it comes out next year. I like books that make me think outside the box and this certainly does that. I will still give it four stars despite my own personal horror of animal abuse.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Molly Moore

    Now THIS is a thriller. Dark, disturbing and deeply unsettling and I loved it So many thrillers nowadays are somewhat sanitized. You don't find yourself revolted by the vile actions of the 'baddie' but that is not the case with this book. The psychopath in this story, we don't find out who it is until the very end, is one that will scare you but isn't that what a book like this is meant to do. When was the last time you read a thriller where you peered at the words on the page felt revulsion and Now THIS is a thriller. Dark, disturbing and deeply unsettling and I loved it So many thrillers nowadays are somewhat sanitized. You don't find yourself revolted by the vile actions of the 'baddie' but that is not the case with this book. The psychopath in this story, we don't find out who it is until the very end, is one that will scare you but isn't that what a book like this is meant to do. When was the last time you read a thriller where you peered at the words on the page felt revulsion and a tinge of fear? I read this book in 2 days. I couldn't put it down. I had to know. I had to find out. This is not an uplifting book at all. No one is happy in this story, the place in which it is set is grim and dull. The story is chilling and will stay with me for a long time. The last time I felt like this about a novel was maybe The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks because it too was graphic in it's descriptions and left you feeling totally unsettled at how truly awful a broken human can be. I find it really interesting that so many people leaving reviews on this hate it for the reasons I love it. Love is an odd word here, I don't love it in that it made me feel good I love it because it horrified me and kept me captivated. Bravo Greg Buchanan

  14. 5 out of 5

    Georgina

    The opening chapter booked me in straight away. Sixteen horses heads buried but for one eye showing was enough to keep me there. What followed the why how and who seemed to have a complex story behind the opening. Interesting. gripping but don't lose sight of what is going on this book is really very good. I loved the concept, the characters and in particular "Cooper" bringing life to the story. A bit of the past had to come in to explain the here and now. But all in all a good story line. loved The opening chapter booked me in straight away. Sixteen horses heads buried but for one eye showing was enough to keep me there. What followed the why how and who seemed to have a complex story behind the opening. Interesting. gripping but don't lose sight of what is going on this book is really very good. I loved the concept, the characters and in particular "Cooper" bringing life to the story. A bit of the past had to come in to explain the here and now. But all in all a good story line. loved it

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    I received an extract from Sixteen horses as a preview from publisher Mantle Books - so far I love it, will update review when I manage to read the rest of the book. For now a solid 4 stars - the characters are promising, the writing dark, and I love a worn old seaside town...!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Robert Hill

    One morning in early November, local detective Alec Nichols is called to attend to a crime scene on Well Farm. The town of Ilmarsh on the UK coast is generally quiet and without incident, so when Alec is confronted with the decapitated heads of sixteen horses buried in a field, each with one eye left exposed, he can’t work out who would have done this or why. With little experience in cases like this, forensic veterinarian, Cooper Allen is called to assist the Ilmarsh police in their investigati One morning in early November, local detective Alec Nichols is called to attend to a crime scene on Well Farm. The town of Ilmarsh on the UK coast is generally quiet and without incident, so when Alec is confronted with the decapitated heads of sixteen horses buried in a field, each with one eye left exposed, he can’t work out who would have done this or why. With little experience in cases like this, forensic veterinarian, Cooper Allen is called to assist the Ilmarsh police in their investigation. Everyone in Ilmarsh is a suspect, and when more deaths start to surface it sends the town of Ilmarsh into a deep state of panic and paranoia. When it becomes clear that the murder of the horses is only the start of something much more sinister, Alec and Cooper are put in a race against the clock: they need to solve these mysteries before the very fabric of Ilmarsh crumbles around them. But maybe they are already too late …. I think the best way for me to sum up Sixteen Horses is as a dark, disturbing tale that unnerves you and leaves you with a lurking sense of disquiet, but which simultaneously challenges you to suspend your belief in reality to buy into the concept completely. I thought that Greg Buchanan did an effective job at crafting an incredibly atmospheric setting with a compelling mystery, but there were things about this book that I just couldn’t quite get on board with. For one – without spoiling anything – the mystery of the book seemed to go from 0 to 100 very quickly, with a strange about-turn in the middle of the book. I was very confused as to the direction the book was taking, and I wasn’t completely on board with the sudden course adjustment that I felt happened about halfway through the book. In all honesty, it felt a little bit like the author had got to the halfway point of the book and then suddenly decided that the plot he had been working on needed to be chucked and a new plotline brought in. It felt very disjointed, and I found that when this twist happened, my belief in the authenticity of the story became very much suspended. (This became even more the case when the perpetrator is unmasked at the end of the book. I just didn’t buy it.) The other thing that struck me as odd was the writing style. There were a number of situations where the author opted to break scenes or events into a number of very short, staccato-style passages where the narrator was obscured. A number of other reviewers observe how this may be a necessary stylistic choice to keep the killer’s identity hidden. Personally, I just don’t buy that. Firstly, a large number of the passages are split after a particular line of dialogue, almost like a film or TV show would use dramatic music to cue a revelatory statement. However, then the next passage starts with the same conversation picking up exactly where it left off. So, I don’t see why these passages needed splitting. Secondly, in the obscured-narrator passages: I can understand the narration from the killer’s point of view being vague. But when a passage rambles on for a couple of paragraphs before you focus in on your narrator being “the vet” or “the detective”, I don’t think this adds anything to the obfuscation around the killer’s identity. In fact, it just made the story a bit more difficult to follow. If I put aside the quirky writing style and the bizarre plot twist, though, I think this book had potential. It had interesting characters who came across as vulnerable and flawed. I felt like Buchanan had crafted a strong cast of deeply troubled characters who were interesting enough to me to keep me reading through the other strangenesses of the book. I also think Buchanan’s prose is striking: although I found the overall style of the book a bit too breathless for me, the actual writing in those passages was very visceral and compelling. I definitely understand why Buchanan is marketed as a “stunning new talent” based on his command of language alone. Overall, this book was interesting, if a little bit strange. I think the plot wasn’t sufficiently developed, and it strayed a bit too far into the unbelievable. I also think that the concept of the book needed to be fleshed out a bit more. I felt that Cooper being a forensic vet was just a by-the-by, and it wasn’t explored in any great detail. On the whole, I felt compelled to keep reading this book, but I definitely am in no rush to recommend it to friends and family, especially given that there is a theme of animal abuse that runs through the book which made me fairly uncomfortable. Personally, I don’t see the 5-star quality of the book that many others have seen, but I still found it to be a good read with a fairly interesting mystery. Thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan Mantle for the ARC in exchange for a review!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    Sixteen Horses is new crime writer Greg Buchanan’s dark and dazzling literary crime debut and is a story of enduring guilt, trauma and punishment, set in a small seaside community the rest of the world has left behind. In the long-forgotten small coastal town of Ilmarsh, England, left to decay with no more investment from politicians, a farmer and his daughter discover, much to their despair, that their horses have been killed. Local police detective Alec Nichols is called out to conduct an inve Sixteen Horses is new crime writer Greg Buchanan’s dark and dazzling literary crime debut and is a story of enduring guilt, trauma and punishment, set in a small seaside community the rest of the world has left behind. In the long-forgotten small coastal town of Ilmarsh, England, left to decay with no more investment from politicians, a farmer and his daughter discover, much to their despair, that their horses have been killed. Local police detective Alec Nichols is called out to conduct an investigation into the sixteen horses' heads on Well Farm, each partially buried with a single left eye facing the low winter sun and their tails strangely saved nearby. Who would slay these majestic animals in all their glory just to bury them? And for what reason? Gossip is most likely to become rife given the peculiarity of the crime. It also looks like the brutal, merciless slayings followed by the animal’s decapitation can't have been carried out by a lone wolf type; there is more than one deviant at work here. Veterinary Forensics expert Cooper Allen travels to the scene to aide Alec and they quickly join forces to begin an investigation into the seemingly ritualistic incident. Soon a pathogen is discovered lurking within the soil, and many of those who have come into contact with the corpses grow critically ill. Ilmarsh soon finds itself in quarantine to contain the deadly outbreak. A series of crimes comes to light - disappearances, arson, and mutilations--and in the dark days that follow, the town slips into panic and paranoia. Everything is not as it seems. Anyone could be a suspect. And as Cooper finds herself unable to leave town, Alec is stalked by an unseen threat. The two investigators race to uncover the truth behind these frightening and insidious mysteries--no matter the cost. The murders have a connection back to the town’s murky past secrets, and there are plenty of skeletons in the closet in Ilmarsh, so who will sacrifice themselves to get to the truth? This debut literary thriller is quite simply something special; what drew me to Greg's writing and kept me riveted is the extraordinary way he evokes atmosphere - of a lost place, a community left behind - I became immersed in the surroundings almost instantly. It charts the familiarity of disenfranchisement for the people who live in Ilmarsh and we all know that familiarity breeds contempt. The material is haunting, in a unique way, and I know we have found a new novelist with a very special voice indeed. Beautifully written and engrossing from the word go, I found the story to really reflect the dark behaviours and deviant desires of certain people throughout society. It's rich and evocative, intelligent and thought-provoking, and Buchanan brings lots of acute observations and nuance into the narrative. Compulsive, thoroughly original and with plenty of twists in the tale, this is one for those who aren't faint of heart due to the descriptions of animal cruelty and truly the darkest and most disturbing human behaviour, this is a heavy, claustrophobic and almost suffocating read for not only some of the characters but the reader, too. Highly recommended.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Farshana ❤️rainnbooks❤️

    Many thanks to Net Galley, Pan Macmillan, and the author for a chance to read and review this book. All opinions are expressed voluntarily. Simultaneously captivating but at the same time, deeply disturbing, Sixteen Horses by Greg Buchanan gives a new meaning to the word ‘UNNERVING’. WARNING TO READERS WHO CANNOT ABIDE ANIMAL ABUSE, the scenes are not cruelly graphic but imagination can sometimes be our worst enemy. “Seagulls swooped from roof to roof. Middle-aged couples sat on benches, mostly Many thanks to Net Galley, Pan Macmillan, and the author for a chance to read and review this book. All opinions are expressed voluntarily. Simultaneously captivating but at the same time, deeply disturbing, Sixteen Horses by Greg Buchanan gives a new meaning to the word ‘UNNERVING’. WARNING TO READERS WHO CANNOT ABIDE ANIMAL ABUSE, the scenes are not cruelly graphic but imagination can sometimes be our worst enemy. “Seagulls swooped from roof to roof. Middle-aged couples sat on benches, mostly silent. The air smelt of dust, salt, skin, tobacco.” ILMARSH is a long-forgotten pleasure town, a place left to its own decay, devoid of anything new or exciting, a ghost town where every single thing is just waiting to fade into oblivion. But evil lurks in even the remotest corners of the earth as the heads of sixteen horses are discovered in WELL FARM by a farmer and his daughter. Thus starts the deciphering of the myriad strange things that are happening in the town by the lead detective sergeant Alec Nichols and forensic veterinarian Cooper Allen. The writing technique used by the author is unique. There’s no gradual unfolding of the events in the story, it is more or less like watching a film with one scene cutting to the next with no rhyme or reason. In here, it works in obscuring the story and literally muddles the already muddy water. However, it may seem problematic for those readers who take frequent breaks in between their reading, in which case this jumping from one scene to the next, sometimes, leaving no clues to the narrator of the POV we are reading, may break the flow in the story and make it feel disjointed. That also could be the primary reason why the story and its characters never leave a mark but the town definitely does. Neither Cooper nor Alec induces any warm feeling and made it difficult to connect to them as a reader. “People thought fiction was the problem-that films, television, games, comics would all desensitize the world to violence and horror. Real things were far harder to care about.” The claustrophobic foreboding that has been created by the author was simply brilliant. The sounds, the description of the town and its people, the atmospheric thrill give a gothic vibe that was mind-blowing. But there were parts of the story, like in the middle, that lost its grip on me. It doesn’t matter thou, honestly, even the unveiling of the mystery didn’t seem important whilst reading, coz the author mesmerizes you with his story-telling. The whole uneasy unsettling dark aura that Greg Buchanan creates in his debut is worth a read and for that alone, I am going with 3.5 stars. This review is published in my blog https://rainnbooks.com/, Goodreads, Amazon India, Meduim.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

  19. 4 out of 5

    travelsalongmybookshelf

    🌟B O O K R E V I E W🌟 Sixteen Horses - Greg Buchanan This book is a slow burner, it begins with a shocking discovery and then slowly winds and builds, revealing the dark secrets and depths behind the awful discovery of sixteen horses heads found in a field. Cooper Allen, a forensic veterinary surgeon and Alec Nicholls a police detective are the ones who are to investigate. We are drip fed details of characters, the owners of the farm where the heads are discovered, the owners of the horses themselve 🌟B O O K R E V I E W🌟 Sixteen Horses - Greg Buchanan This book is a slow burner, it begins with a shocking discovery and then slowly winds and builds, revealing the dark secrets and depths behind the awful discovery of sixteen horses heads found in a field. Cooper Allen, a forensic veterinary surgeon and Alec Nicholls a police detective are the ones who are to investigate. We are drip fed details of characters, the owners of the farm where the heads are discovered, the owners of the horses themselves and flashbacks to the perpetrators. Cooper is pretty rounded, as a vet myself and having done courses in veterinary forensics I can say that her character is certainly rooted in reality. The descriptions of her veterinary self ring true and of the other vets in the book. It can be a very difficult, stressful and lonely profession and some of the facts are stark but true and written with clarity and honesty. ‘𝗗𝗶𝗱 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗸𝗻𝗼𝘄 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗮 𝘃𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗿𝘆 𝘀𝘂𝗿𝗴𝗲𝗼𝗻 𝗶𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲𝘀 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗲𝗹𝘆 𝘁𝗼 𝗸𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗺𝘀𝗲𝗹𝘃𝗲𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗮𝘃𝗲𝗿𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝗽𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗼𝗻?’ 𝗖𝗼𝗼𝗽𝗲𝗿 𝗽𝗮𝘂𝘀𝗲𝗱 ‘𝗜𝘁’𝘀 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗮 𝗿𝗲𝗰𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝘀𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗲𝗶𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿, 𝘄𝗲’𝘃𝗲 𝗯𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝗱𝘆𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘆𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘀.’ There are difficult subjects here of animal cruelty and it’s proven links to domestic abuse which is something our profession take very seriously and this is made clear and written about in a powerful way, not shying away from the realities of this fact and I was glad to see this with my professional hat on. ‘𝗜 𝘄𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝘃𝗲𝘁 𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗼𝗼𝗹 𝗯𝗲𝗰𝗮𝘂𝘀𝗲 𝗜 𝗱𝗶𝗱𝗻’𝘁 𝗸𝗻𝗼𝘄 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗲𝗹𝘀𝗲 𝗜 𝘄𝗮𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲.’ As a reader, the atmosphere created is bleak and threatening and you are aware of lurking darkness and shadows. It is a great and unusual premise for a book, not one I have come across before. Something sinister threatens the health and safety of all involved, something in the ground, which I did think might be the case before it was revealed, but that’s just from my job- it’s brilliantly executed and a bit of a wow moment- well it was for me! ‘𝗜𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝘄𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝗺𝗲𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲. 𝗟𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝗮 𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗼 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝗮𝗻𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗵𝗮𝗹𝗹, 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝘀𝗹𝗮𝘆 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝗼𝗻𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗿.’ 𝗛𝗲𝗿 𝘀𝗺𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗵𝗮𝗱 𝗻𝗼 𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗺𝘁𝗵, 𝗻𝗼 𝗳𝗲𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴. 𝗦𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗮𝘁 𝘂𝗽 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗮𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁. ‘𝗜’𝘃𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗱 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘆𝗼𝘂.’ Having worked during the foot and mouth pandemic, the reality of dealing with infectious disease is wrought across the page and accurate, it took me back to that time and the terrible effect it has on the local community on lives and livelihoods . This book is strong, powerful, tackles some difficult subjects and does not shy away from reality. ✩✩✩✩ I won this book as a giveaway

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    I have read a lot of crime thrillers over the years, and I like to think I have reached a point where I have a pretty good idea if I will enjoy a book just based on the blurb, the endorsements, or even the front cover design. For some reason, when I first saw Sixteen Horses it just didn't jump out at me, but I saw so many good reviews, and that it was chosen for BBC TWO's Between the Covers, and decided to give it a try. After reading it, I am now kicking myself that I almost passed up the chanc I have read a lot of crime thrillers over the years, and I like to think I have reached a point where I have a pretty good idea if I will enjoy a book just based on the blurb, the endorsements, or even the front cover design. For some reason, when I first saw Sixteen Horses it just didn't jump out at me, but I saw so many good reviews, and that it was chosen for BBC TWO's Between the Covers, and decided to give it a try. After reading it, I am now kicking myself that I almost passed up the chance to read this stunning debut. Sixteen Horses is definitely not an easy reading 'popcorn thriller', but it is a very special novel. I already know that I won't read anything else like it this year, it is one of the most original stories I have come across in a long time. The short bursts of information, switching from person to person, coupled with the unusual time or memory shifts (many being left unfinished), created a sense of real unease throughout the narrative. It was very cleverly written, because the changes were so subtle that I couldn't always be sure if the story was carrying on from where it just finished, or if it had jumped to a different point in time. This made me really think about what was happening, whose point of view I was hearing from, and where I was in the overall timeline. I had to really work to put the pieces together and follow along, making me feel like I was a part of the story. I never usually pick out specific sections of a book to review but in this case I will make an exception. Chapter Six is probably the shortest chapter I've ever read in a novel, but the writing was so incredible, I must have read through it four or five times before continuing with the rest of the story. Sixteen Horses did something which is very difficult to do - it had me rooting for characters that I didn't even like very much, to succeed in solving the crime. It was clever, unique, dark and unexpected. I'm convinced it is going to be a big hit when it is released and gets a massive five stars from me. The book which I read on a whim last year turned out to be my top choice of 2020, and I have a feeling the same might happen in this case too! Thanks to NetGalley, PanMacmillan and GregBuchanan for the opportunity to read and review the ARC.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kon Frankowski

    A sudden chill around you makes you shudder and check if any of the windows are open. They aren't so you go to turn up the heating, but the cold you feel doesn't go away. And this, my faithful reader, is when you know you have entered the unknown territory. "Sixteen Horses" is a brilliant debut from Greg Buchanan that explores several themes which are ordinarily delivered in an easy to digest, almost sanitised way. Death, animal cruelty, depression, fear, anger - Buchanan doses them in their terr A sudden chill around you makes you shudder and check if any of the windows are open. They aren't so you go to turn up the heating, but the cold you feel doesn't go away. And this, my faithful reader, is when you know you have entered the unknown territory. "Sixteen Horses" is a brilliant debut from Greg Buchanan that explores several themes which are ordinarily delivered in an easy to digest, almost sanitised way. Death, animal cruelty, depression, fear, anger - Buchanan doses them in their terrifying, graphic glory without being overt or vulgar. Despite being a slow-burn thriller, the tension builds up from the opening paragraphs and doesn't let go till the very end. It's like getting a slow drip of adrenaline intravenously; you feel the tension building up, and you wish for the big reveal to happen. You wait for an explosion that doesn't come. It leaves you in a limbo of emotional disarray until the final act arrives and pulls the rug from under your trembling feet. The premise of Buchanans first (and judging by the current reception of the book not last) novel is unusual. The characters are not your run-of-the-mill gritty coppers or morally ambiguous ex-military with a ropey past. A DS Alec Nichols is a grief-stricken widower trying to navigate a somewhat complicated relationship with his son, and Dr Cooper Allen, the veterinary surgeon and extremely talented forensic investigator, is drawn into her personal darkness whilst desperatly trying to claw her way out of it. Sixteen Horses is a fresh, very important voice in the genre. It delivers a compelling story with a literary zest of a seasoned storyteller. Still, most importantly, it encapsulates the high-concept thriller and a lyrically told, utterly captivating story of the human condition. It's heavily influenced by several philosophical notions that barge into the realms of ethics and morality, but also, the good and the evil. The language used in the book will not be everyone's cup of tea, though. Sixteen Horses is not a cosy, comforting bedtime read you pick up after a day of running after your kids or Zoom meetings. It gets heavy; it gets fragmented; it gets you by your throat. Buchanan's writing is rich and detailed and gorgeously wordy. And there's a lot of darkness.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Collins

    Sixteen Horses by Greg Buchanan is one of the most original crime novels I’ve read. If you’re a fan of literary crime fiction, then you need to read this book. Greg Buchanan is an exciting new voice. Set in a dying seaside town, Illmarsh, the town and the police are shocked when the corpses of sixteen horses are found buried. Days after the police first come into contact with the horses, people who were there fall desperately ill. What is going on here? What do the murders of the horses mean? An Sixteen Horses by Greg Buchanan is one of the most original crime novels I’ve read. If you’re a fan of literary crime fiction, then you need to read this book. Greg Buchanan is an exciting new voice. Set in a dying seaside town, Illmarsh, the town and the police are shocked when the corpses of sixteen horses are found buried. Days after the police first come into contact with the horses, people who were there fall desperately ill. What is going on here? What do the murders of the horses mean? And what connection do they have to the dark events that have also taken place in the town? Sixteen Horses is such a unique crime thriller. It is a stunning debut that will keep you gripped. The atmosphere is very dark and foreboding. It gave me a very uneasy feeling as I was reading it. It seems as though there is no light at all in the village where the events are taking place. The crime is such an unusual one, and it made the book feel very fresh. It’s what made me want to keep reading after I read the opening pages. If you think the opening pages are dark, be prepared, it is about to get a lot darker. This is not a fast-paced, action-packed crime novel; it is a slow-burner, character-driven novel. I loved Greg Buchanan’s writing style, which pulled me into the story and the setting. Illmarsh itself becomes a character. The opening chapters are so chilling, and I had to know what was going on in the town. Who was behind the crimes that were taking place? It puts all the locals on edge, and I could feel the tension as the novel progressed. Illmarsh is a town that feels forgotten. It added to the atmosphere. I could picture the town on the coast very well, and Greg Buchanan evokes a real sense of place in his writing. Sixteen Horses is a very immersive book. It will definitely appeal to you if you’re a fan of Chris Whitaker. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Greg Buchanan writes next. This is a stand-out crime thriller. I am sure that there will be many people talking about it in the months to come. Sixteen Horses is a superb debut which I won’t be forgetting about any time soon.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Aoife McMenamin

    I’ve read a couple of the #BBC2BetweentheCovers book club picks previously and found them excellent (#SmallPleasures and #JustIgnoreHim) so when I saw the most recent picks, I hunted down a couple of them. Sixteen Horses, the debut novel by Greg Buchanan, was one of them. This is a book I’d never have picked up otherwise. It’s a mixture of different genres - crime, horror, noir, literary fiction. I’d usually steer clear of horror but I found myself engrossed in this strange, deeply unsettling, d I’ve read a couple of the #BBC2BetweentheCovers book club picks previously and found them excellent (#SmallPleasures and #JustIgnoreHim) so when I saw the most recent picks, I hunted down a couple of them. Sixteen Horses, the debut novel by Greg Buchanan, was one of them. This is a book I’d never have picked up otherwise. It’s a mixture of different genres - crime, horror, noir, literary fiction. I’d usually steer clear of horror but I found myself engrossed in this strange, deeply unsettling, darkly atmospheric and cinematic book. It wasn’t always clear what was going on but I found myself absorbed in it nonetheless. The opening is quite stunning and not for the faint-hearted. The heads of sixteen horses are found in a circular pattern in a remote field in the decaying seaside town of Ilmarsh, each with one eye facing the winter sun. As Det Insp Alec Nichols and his sidekick, forensic veterinarian Cooper Allen, attempt to uncover who has committed this macabre crime, the reader is led down mysterious rabbit holes and connected crimes (arson, contamination), diving into the past and present where nobody is without suspicion. The writing is fragmented and vague in parts. Short sentences and varied chapter structures add to the sense of unease and confusion you feel as a reader and with different POV narratives it’s not clear who is reliable. I found the middle part of the book a little sluggish but the ending was well executed and very hard to put down. An unnerving and gruesome read (CW: ⚠️ graphic descriptions of animal dismemberment and mutilation), with a unique sense of foreboding that is expertly done by the author. It’s definitely not one that will appeal to everyone but it is an accomplished debut. Grim but gripping. 3.5/5 ⭐️ Sixteen Horses will be published on 29 April. I was grateful to read an ARC courtesy of the publishers @panmacmillan via @netgalley. As always, this is an honest review.*

  24. 4 out of 5

    Elaine Tomasso

    I would like to thank Netgalley and Pan Macmillan for an advance copy of Sixteen Horses, a stand-alone set in the coastal town of Ilmarsh. When the heads and tails of sixteen horses are found partially buried in a field DS Alec Nichols is at a loss at the cruelty and motive. Forensic veterinarian Dr Cooper Allen is asked to assist the investigation and gets rather more than she bargained for. Sixteen Horses is a weirdly compulsive read that I’m still not sure I enjoyed. It draws the reader in with I would like to thank Netgalley and Pan Macmillan for an advance copy of Sixteen Horses, a stand-alone set in the coastal town of Ilmarsh. When the heads and tails of sixteen horses are found partially buried in a field DS Alec Nichols is at a loss at the cruelty and motive. Forensic veterinarian Dr Cooper Allen is asked to assist the investigation and gets rather more than she bargained for. Sixteen Horses is a weirdly compulsive read that I’m still not sure I enjoyed. It draws the reader in with an excellent plot full of twists and hints and becomes a real page turner. I was desperate to know the who and why behind this grandiose statement and the further events. The answer turns out to be rather mundane after all the strange events. The novel has a more literary tone than I like or want to understand. I assume it is trying to tell me some home truths about the human condition but I wasn’t interested enough to pay attention or attempt to decipher it. The plot’s the thing for me and it’s great. The tone seems distant and fragmented with the dialogue and the characters’ thoughts leaving things unsaid and with no intimacy. The narrative jumps about in both point of view and timeline, making it seem uneven and disjointed. I think this probably reflects most people’s approach to their thoughts and conversations but it’s weird in a novel. Cooper Allen is the sane character although that may not be true as very little is revealed about her. Alec Nichols has secrets and seems somewhat untethered to reality at times so I’m not really sure what to think about him. It all adds to the atmosphere of uncertainty and ambiguity in the novel. I think that if it were not for the compelling plot I would have given up on the tone and ungraspable nature of the novel. I’m glad I read it but I’m not sure that I would attempt a repeat performance.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Martin Paul

    Literary fiction? Police procedural? Psychological horror? “Sixteen Horses” is all these and more. A deeply dark and disturbing book which defies categorising. Detective Alec Nichols is called to a crime scene on Well Farm, in the coastal town of Ilmarsh, and is confronted with the decapitated heads of sixteen horses buried in a field, each with one eye left exposed. In need of expert input, he calls on forensic veterinarian Cooper Allen to assist. When more deaths start to occur, the town descen Literary fiction? Police procedural? Psychological horror? “Sixteen Horses” is all these and more. A deeply dark and disturbing book which defies categorising. Detective Alec Nichols is called to a crime scene on Well Farm, in the coastal town of Ilmarsh, and is confronted with the decapitated heads of sixteen horses buried in a field, each with one eye left exposed. In need of expert input, he calls on forensic veterinarian Cooper Allen to assist. When more deaths start to occur, the town descends into panic and paranoia and the pair are in a race to uncover the truth. This book seemed to me as much about the journey as the destination. And what a twisting journey it is. The writing is dark, very dark, and almost claustrophobic in its mood. At the same time, the writing seems uneven in places, especially around the middle. There’s a jarring feel to some parts that often feel like a film – moving quickly from scene to scene to increase the tension. The story didn’t flow for me, as much as jump from event to event. On reflection, I think I developed better impressions of the town than I did the people in it. The town could be lifted from an episode of “League of Gentlemen” – it’s almost a parody of all those forgotten, tucked-away communities where evil lingers. There’s blackmail, jealousy, so we’re definitely examining the dark side of human nature, and here the writing is excellent. Those affected by animal cruelty and the abuse people inflict on each other will find parts of the book difficult, but sticking with it will reward most readers. This wasn’t my usual type of read, and I wasn’t as fully engaged as I thought I’d be, but fans of TV programs such as Broadchurch or Icelandic Noir, will love it. This is Greg Buchanan’s first book, so he may still be finding his voice. I’ll await his next book to see how he progresses.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Vivienne

    My thanks to Pan Macmillan/Mantle for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘Sixteen Horses’ by Greg Buchanan in exchange for an honest review. This proved an unsettling and extremely dark literary crime thriller with echoes of folk horror. Near to the dying English seaside town of Ilmarsh, a macabre discovery is made: sixteen horses’ heads on a farm, each buried with a single eye facing the low winter sun. Local police detective, DS Alec Nichols is assisted with his investigation by forensic veterinarian Coop My thanks to Pan Macmillan/Mantle for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘Sixteen Horses’ by Greg Buchanan in exchange for an honest review. This proved an unsettling and extremely dark literary crime thriller with echoes of folk horror. Near to the dying English seaside town of Ilmarsh, a macabre discovery is made: sixteen horses’ heads on a farm, each buried with a single eye facing the low winter sun. Local police detective, DS Alec Nichols is assisted with his investigation by forensic veterinarian Cooper Allen, who has been brought in as a consultant on the case. The investigators soon uncover a chain of crimes in the community: disappearances, arson, and other mutilations. These culminate in an even more shocking revelation and the town quickly slips into panic and paranoia. Due to the nature of the crimes, this was not an easy novel to read, even though the animal mutilations and deaths were essential to the plot. As a result I am issuing a rare content warning. Although unlikely intended as such, the dying town of Ilmarsh reminded me of the kind of isolated, haunted town found in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. I found ‘Sixteen Horses’ an unusual, thought-provoking novel with plenty of mystery and strong characterisation. I was especially drawn to Cooper, who was so focused on uncovering the truth behind these heinous crimes. Her compassion for the victims made it easier for me to read the more distressing passages. Some novels benefit from a second closer reading and so I plan to revisit this, likely via its audiobook edition, in order to further explore its multilayered narrative and symbolism at a deeper level. Overall, ‘Sixteen Horses’ was a powerful, well written novel, and much more than the usual style of whodunnit. It was atmospheric and at times quite surreal. Definitely one of a kind and a spectacular debut.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    I read an advance copy of this very impressive first novel, and I was stunned by the quality of the writing, the strangeness of the story, and the strength of Buchanan's imagination. It is billed as a mystery novel, but it is much more literary than most mysteries, plus it has a slightly dystopian feel: The setting, Ilmarsh, a seaside English town seems to be very contemporary and also in some not-too-distant future where the traditional signs of economic progress – manufacturing, oil, tourism – I read an advance copy of this very impressive first novel, and I was stunned by the quality of the writing, the strangeness of the story, and the strength of Buchanan's imagination. It is billed as a mystery novel, but it is much more literary than most mysteries, plus it has a slightly dystopian feel: The setting, Ilmarsh, a seaside English town seems to be very contemporary and also in some not-too-distant future where the traditional signs of economic progress – manufacturing, oil, tourism – have all disappeared, and even farming, that much older form of industry, is being destroyed. And there's a strong gothic undercurrent with the animal mutilations (if you're a horse or dog lover, steer clear of this book). The book reads at times like a cautionary tale of what happens when we neglect the natural world, and though it wears its author's learning well, it never feels polemical or didactic. The plotting is confident but not straightforward (and I think the author stumbles a bit with the storyline at the end of the book). But the book is so poetic in tone and style that it bears really careful reading. For example: Dark cars drove down dark streets. Through shadows that had once been marshlands, the long and level world stretched its teeth around them. They danced through the darkness, through the void. Red and blue lights, they began to dance. They came towards the sea. This is a really great book, and it could make a fantastic movie.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gulnaz

    Many thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for this arc. I was intrigued by the concept of this novel and was excited to read this. Unfortunately I found this quite confusing and the characters didn’t quite grip me. This opens with detective Alec following a farmer who’s found sixteen horses beheaded and their heads buried around his farm. Then we have a prologue following a vet called Cooper who works as a forensic scientist dealing with crimes to do with animals. She’s in therapy following the Many thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for this arc. I was intrigued by the concept of this novel and was excited to read this. Unfortunately I found this quite confusing and the characters didn’t quite grip me. This opens with detective Alec following a farmer who’s found sixteen horses beheaded and their heads buried around his farm. Then we have a prologue following a vet called Cooper who works as a forensic scientist dealing with crimes to do with animals. She’s in therapy following the sixteen horses case. Then time rewinds and we follow Cooper and Alec trying to solve the crime. Interspersed are narratives from other suspects. This was a convoluted hot mess. There were times when the prose was stunning with a vivid, claustrophobic small-town haunted vibe to it and there was some quote worthy lines. By the village itself felt timeless. I wasn’t sure where in the UK it was supposed to be set. Also the characters weren’t fully fleshed out. They felt vague and ambiguous. There was a teasing of chemistry between Alec and Cooper by then from Cooper’s POV Alec comes across as a lying creep (there was no example of this, why is she thinking Alec is hiding something?) and we later find out he’s a drunk. It’s very weird. Even the sub-plots were quite confusing. The police headquarters itself wasn’t constructed properly. How does things work in this town? I was so confused. There were some interesting aspect about cruelty to animals and the Croydon Cat Killer, but this wasn’t quite the serial killer read I was expecting. 2/5.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Faichney

    "You can do anything if you decide something isn't human." How true? How awful? Evil may be mundane but "Sixteen Horses" most definitely is not!  The story opens with a bang, leaving a sense of unease which persists for the remainder of the book. Greg Buchanan explores the effects of unemployment and declining industries in a previously popular seaside town, skilfully creating an atmosphere of sinister suspicion. Grief and loss are big themes. There's plenty of twisted violence too. Humour is spa "You can do anything if you decide something isn't human." How true? How awful? Evil may be mundane but "Sixteen Horses" most definitely is not!  The story opens with a bang, leaving a sense of unease which persists for the remainder of the book. Greg Buchanan explores the effects of unemployment and declining industries in a previously popular seaside town, skilfully creating an atmosphere of sinister suspicion. Grief and loss are big themes. There's plenty of twisted violence too. Humour is sparse but glorious. This is a pitch dark literary thriller with a host of complex characters, none of them particularly likeable. I spent most of the book having no idea what was going on but feeling compelled to continue reading. I enjoyed the unusual, almost disjointed, style of prose.  There's an eccentricity to this book about desperate people in a dying place. There is A LOT going on here and it's hard to make sense of it and keep track of the threads. It's also difficult to review without giving anything away. Buchanan displays a sound technical understanding of veterinary practice, and horses themselves. He is a writer very much in a league of his own and I'm interested to see what he does next. I'm not an animal person but even I was disturbed by the fates of the ones in this book. Overall, I'm unsure how I feel about it. Uneasy, and pretty horrified, but appreciative of the reading experience. It's surely set to be one of the biggest debuts of the year. "Sixteen Horses" has been optioned for television and I will most certainly be tuning in! 

  30. 4 out of 5

    Denyce

    Sixteen horses heads, along with their tails, buried on a farm, one eye facing upwards towards the sky. Alec Nichols, a widowed detective, finds himself contemplating this gruesome scene in the company of a dour farmer. Cooper Allen,forensic vet, is called in to help Alec investigate. They uncover a series of awful crimes and disappearances, arson attacks and the outbreak of a serious disease. People die, or kill themselves. This is not your average crime novel/thriller. It's disturbing, devasta Sixteen horses heads, along with their tails, buried on a farm, one eye facing upwards towards the sky. Alec Nichols, a widowed detective, finds himself contemplating this gruesome scene in the company of a dour farmer. Cooper Allen,forensic vet, is called in to help Alec investigate. They uncover a series of awful crimes and disappearances, arson attacks and the outbreak of a serious disease. People die, or kill themselves. This is not your average crime novel/thriller. It's disturbing, devastating and takes no prisoners. I had to constantly remind myself and was surprised by the fact that it was set in England, in a small disintegrating town called Ilmarsh (which makes sense, really...ill marsh), instead of a wide open place somewhere in the U.S. It had a sense of space and distance and claustrophobia all at once. It's full of strange characters, none of whom the reader never really gets to know. The prose forces you to concentrate, there is no escaping the strangeness of it all. Some sentences are repeated throughout the narrative, when describing the seaside town, full of seagulls and amusement arcades...nothing amusing about this story, though. Difficult to put down, but brutal. With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a prepublished copy in return for an honest review.

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