“A Stone’s Throw” by James Ziskin is book six in the Ellie Stone Mystery series, but quick back ground comments in the context of the storyline provides a new reader with any needed information.
On an August 1962 evening, Eleonora Stone, a reporter from “The New Holland Republic,” is covering a fire in an abandoned barn and horse ranch, near Saratoga racetrack New York. She documents the scene with water, burned timbers, ash, and suddenly so much more. “It’s a body, Sheriff… Two, actually.”
Ellie takes readers through her search of the scene as she seeks to gather info and photos for her story. What was this she finds? A scrap of fabric, diamonds orange and black, riding silks? Was a jockey one of the victims? What story will she uncover?
As Ellie searches for details for her articles, details about the nearby horse racing industry pull readers into the story. She knows about the serious horsemen, the ones who project competence and knowledge, the well-dressed cosmopolitan types, the professional gamblers, the hobbyists, and the ladies in fancy hats. Could a jockey mixed up with gamblers? In the end, secrets, traumas, and a past crime all come racing into 1962 with tragic results.
The action is dialogue driven and Ellie’s first person narrative replicates casual conversations and eliminates offensive language as comments to the reader “but he used a different word.”
Her descriptions are interesting “he was displaying all the pique of a rhinoceros that’s just been darted in the rump by a tranquilizer gun.” She also explains motivations and situations to the reader. “I was going to be sick if I continued trying to read in a moving car… No, I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. She also reflects on her own actions “That had been foolish of me.”
Time and place are appropriately reflected in the investigative process. “I settled into the phone booth and dialed the number…I had to be home before six to write up my story for Monday’s edition and drop it off with the typesetter downtown at the office.”
I received a copy of “A Stone’s Throw” from James Ziskin, and Seventh Street Books. It is an enjoyable book to with mystery and murder but not too much blood and gore. After all, a reporter can only get so much printed, and horses cost a lot of money to buy and to feed.