Cover Image: Sixteen Horses

Sixteen Horses

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Member Reviews

I really don’t know if I enjoyed this book or not. Certain parts were highly enjoyable and quite fascinating  whilst other parts were unsettling, dark and if i’m honest sometimes I felt the author tried too hard to ‘tick all the boxes’ .but I liked the character of Cooper, I thought she was focused and compassionate. Sixteen Horses is not an easy read and will appeal to some readers but not others. I’m glad I read it however I don’t know if I truly enjoyed it. With thanks to the publisher and netgalley to be able to read a different and not a normal thriller.
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This thriller set in a rundown seaside town on the coast of England is as bleak as its setting. Beginning with the discovery of sixteen murdered horses, it follows a police detective - himself hiding from his past grief, and a animal forensic scientist, with her own issues, brought in to try and track down the killer. What follows is a dark, winding path where you really cannot always see the wood for the trees.. The language and tone of the novel is desolate and sparse. I felt compelled to read to the end but came away feeling unsettled and vaguely unsatisfied - but I think that might have been the point. I'd recommend this to anyone who is bored of the usual crime novel or domestic thriller, looking for something dark, raw and melancholy.
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What a fantastic literary crime novel. A debut too, making it all the more impressive. Buchanan masterfully weaves a dark, intriguing tale of macabre goings-on in a decaying, forgotten coastal community. Sixteen Horses somehow manages to be both slow-burning and incredibly gripping. Wonderfully evocative writing and complex yet believable characters. Bravo.
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"I can't wait to read this book as I loved what I read: a great and lyrical style of writing and a plot that promises to keep you hooked.
It's atmospheric, dark and gripping.
The only issue is it's just a sampler."
This is what I wrote when I read the sampler and then I read the book and "WOW" I think it's the best book i read this year.
You can love or hate it but you won't surely be bored.
It's an excellent debut, a gritty and dark story with horrors element, the story of characters that are hurt and of a bleak and impoverished town.
It's not the kind of book you can define "entertaining" or an "easy read".
Excellent, highly recommended.
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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.
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Loved the shifts in character and time period - very, very atmospheric, will make great TV show. Spooky, moving, a chiller, a detective story, a story about love and its devastations - what more could you want?
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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. I love it for being dark and disturbing and utterly gripping. Bravo Greg Buchanan 5 starts for this one
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"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!
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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.
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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.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Sixteen Horses is an unsettling and intense crime thriller that isn’t for the faint hearted. The animal cruelty is so unsettling, but the book is so well written it was so hard to put down.

Such an awful, unusual crime surprisingly makes a great read, and the further in you get, the more impossible it is to stop. At first I struggled to follow the different perspectives but soon enough I was hooked and able to fly through the pages. Sixteen Horses is unlike anything I’ve read before and I would definitely recommend. 

This is an incredible debut for a clearly talented author. I look forward to reading more of Greg Buchanan’s work.
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You shouldn't just read this book because you are curious about a debut author, you should read this book because it is blooming good. A cracking read from beginning to end.

Like most of you reading this review I have read a lot of crime fiction and have an eclectic taste, this book really is something different, its not for the faint hearted and does deal with animal cruelty in a strong manner, if that's not something you can stomach - don't read it and then moan about it afterwards.

The character of the town makes its oppressive presence felt and the police personnel were well written. The shifts in narrative kept the pace of the book well and the partial information reveals drove me on.

Overall a thoroughly intriguing book which made me think a great deal, mourn the cruelty of some people but I was glad to read it and look forward to the author's next offering.

#SixteenHorses #NetGalley
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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.
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I am really in two minds about this book. On the one hand the story of the impoverished seaside town with its struggling inhabitants is bleak, moving and raw. On the other hand is the macabre depiction of sixteen dead horses and other animal cruelty.

I'm by no means a fainthearted reader but this was a stretch for me. The recounting of the serial abuse of animals was too much. I understand the point the author is making about a lack of legislation with regard to animal rights but the lack of subtlety left me rather cold.

This is not a normal thriller by any means. Whilst the writing is masterful and the atmosphere tangible, the darkness was too much for me.

Thank you to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I first heard about this book the end of 2020, after reading the blurb, I knew it was one I had to get my hands on!  

This is Greg Buchanan's debut novel and all I can say is WOW!  For the first time, in a long, long time, I was under my duvet with a torch trying desperately to get to the end before I fell asleep!

Now, this book isn't fast paced but the writing, for me, was totally original.  It is so hard to describe, its almost haunting.  You know when you are watching a film and you can feel yourself tensing up as the suspense builds?  That's the way this book made me feel.  

Ilmarsh, a small seaside town, was the perfect setting for this story and Buchanan brought it to life.  The characters are written brilliantly, all with their flaws and hiding something which added to the mystery.

I have seen that this is going to be turned into a TV show and I honestly can't wait for it!  I really hope they do the book justice!

I have rated this book 5 stars, a totally original, compelling, haunting read that had me reading long into the night! 

TW:  animal abuse

Thank you so much to the author, Greg Buchanan, for sending me an advanced copy.
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Isn’t it strange how monstrosities carried out on animals can sometimes be worse than those carried our on humans.

Whether it’s because they are innocents, much like children, it can make the terrible things done to them by humans appear even more terrible.

Sixteen Horses was of those novels that for the first half of wasn’t sure where it was going. A complex story that comes together at the end entwining families with tragedy. 

The writing was hauntingly atmospheric, almost poetic in places.  Set in an old seaside town with farms within touching distance  (much like the one I live in) sent echoes of my childhood back to the days spent at the stables for hours on end!  

I did find the mutilation quite tough to read especially as I am a real horse lover, but it was integral to the story, and very well written.

I don’t want to say too much about the storyline or the final reveal as I think it would give too much away.

I’ve got a feeling this is going to be one of those novels up for literary awards; it has that feel about it. 

Great debut from Greg and I’m very happy to have been able to have read an advance copy.
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Well this is not what I expected it to be and I’m still gathering my thoughts about it all! I was expecting a crime thriller, but it was this and much, much more. Think dark, atmospheric crime thriller with some horror, gothic vibes, the police and a forensic veterinarian thrown into the mix! 

This is quite a chunk of a book but it didn’t feel like it took long to read. Some parts are heavier going than others (it flicks between quite detailed descriptions to abrupt dialogue) and some of the scenes are quite graphic in their descriptions (trigger warning for animal mutilation) but it still kept me reading and wanting to know what happens.

Whilst I loved the police procedural aspect to it and I really like the forensic veterinarian, Cooper Allen, I felt that some of this was just too dark for me and this is where the mixed feelings com me into play. I wanted to keep on reading, I wanted to know more, but overall I’m not sure I enjoyed it. The writing is fantastic and for a debut novel, the whole plot idea is superb but it was just a bit too creepy for me to fully appreciate.
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This is a dark, unsettling, and atmospheric novel and such a brilliant debut. It's deftly plotted and definitely one for keeping the pages turning - it’s over 400 pages long and I read it in a day! I literally couldn’t put it down or get on with anything until I found out what happened. It’s full of twists and turns right up to the final explosive reveal and an ending that will haunt you for days.
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3.5 stars  rounded up to 4

**TRIGGER 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 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 sixteen horses heads that were buried in a field, dark secrets start to emerge around the local community. The story is not easy to follow. The timelines and narrative jump around. The character 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 is 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 #SsixteenHorses in  exchange for an honest review.
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This debut novel, Sixteen Horses by Greg Buchanan, was nothing like I was expecting. An uncomfortable read from page one, only got more uncomfortable as I continued!  Was this the reaction the author was expecting?  The book was well outside my comfort zone and I struggled to continue. Very descriptive. I also had trouble with the style of writing.   The best and interesting character was Cooper Allen, forensic vet.  The other characters, some good and some bad!  

I give a 2-star rating only as I struggled with this book.

I WANT TO THANK NETGALLEY FOR THE OPPORTUNITY OF READING AN ADVANCED COPY OF THIS BOOK FOR AN HONEST REVIEW
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