Sarah Barnard has lost her trail-riding business, her horses, her house and her husband. Avoiding the daunting task of facing family on Christmas Day, she sets off on her beloved black mare, Tansy, into the Mortimer Ranges. But when a flash storm turns Spinners Creek into a raging torrent, Sarah is trapped on Devil Mountain. Seeking shelter, she rides to the summit, the remote Hangman's Hut. A man, a bushwalker who is also trapped, joins Sarah there. Heath is friendly, capable and handsome. There are elements to his story that don't ring true though. Why is he so deep in the wilderness without any gear? Where is his vehicle? Why does he seem in no rush to be rescued? Surviving together means Sarah must put aside her doubts and trust him. Yet the closer they get the more her suspicions grow. Isolated, with no rescuers in sight, Sarah finds herself locked into dangerous game of intimacy and survival with a man displaying all the hallmarks of a killer.
Honey Brown lives in country Victoria with her husband and two children. She is the author of four books: Red Queen, The Good Daughter, After the Darkness and Dark Horse. Red Queen was published to critical acclaim in 2009 and won an Aurealis Award, and The Good Daughter was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award and shortlisted for the Barbara Jefferis Award in 2011. After the Darkness was selected for the Women's Weekly Great Read and for Get Reading 2012's 50 Books You Can't Put Down campaign. Her fifth novel, Through the Cracks, will be published in 2014.
Informing her parents that she wouldn't be attending their Christmas Day lunch Sarah Barnard gathers a few things together then saddles up Tansy her black mare. Wanting to get away from all her troubles she decides to head for the high country to Mortimer Rangers to a cabin called Hangman's Hut situated on top of Devil Mountain.
With the weather changing rather quickly and only a little way into her ride Sarah and Tansy find themselves in a middle of a storm. Sensing the fear in Tansy Sarah knows they are in immediate danger, but all she can do is to hold on tight and hope Tansy can lead them out to safety and in one piece.
Eventually, after fighting their way through the storm Sarah and Tansy arrive at the hut. Sarah leaves Tansy to settle down and have a much needed rest whilst Sarah gets out of soaking wet clothes. When an injured bushman, Heath arrives at Sarah's door her instincts kick in telling her that something isn't right, but with bad conditions and no phone service Sarah has no way of escaping. So with no alternative she must wait for the weather to improve. In the meantime, Sarah soon realizes that Heath is a man who doesn't wish to give too much away about himself and soon learns that not all is as it seems. Who really is this man, where did he come from and what does he want with Sarah?
Oh my goodness, what a terrific psychological thriller. I LOVED this book and couldn't pull myself away from it. Aussie author Honey Brown really knows how to keep you on the edge of your seat that's for certain. The twist at the end of this story blew me away and I have no hesitation in HiGHLY recommending this book to anyone who loves reading thrillers.
Recently divorced and forced to sell her property Sarah and her beautiful endurance horse Tansy set out to spend Christmas Day alone on the mountain they love behind her property. Failing to check the weather they are caught in a storm and a flash flood forces them to seek shelter in an old hut. A young bushwalker, Heath has also found his way to the hut and he and Sarah enter into an agreement to share their resources until help arrives.
An uneasy tension permeates the book as Sarah and Heath dance around each other. Neither is quite what they pretend to be but must rely on each other to survive until mountain rescue can get to them. This is a terrific psychological thriller with the author keeping a tight rein on her plot with carefully measured doses of hints and revelations until the final explosive twist. The characters feel real and full bodied and so well is the scenery described that I can almost smell the eucalypts and the fresh damp ground with the hint of danger in the air. My favourite book by Honey Brown so far.
Having read After the Darkness last year I thought I knew what to expect from Honey Brown and while I was rewarded with a compelling story of psychological suspense, the shocking twist in the tale of Dark Horse took me by surprise.
After a messy divorce and the reluctant sale of her property Sarah Barnard can't face a day of forced celebration with her parents and so just after dawn on Christmas morning, she packs supplies and canters into the bush upon her beloved horse, Tansy. Distracted, Sarah doesn't notice the change in the weather until a torrent of water is rushing towards her. With no way to retreat, Sarah and Tansy are forced to seek higher ground and take refuge at the site of an old bushranger's hut in the midst of being renovated. Resigned to waiting for rescue, Sarah establishes camp, content in her solitude, but then a man calls to her from the darkness, and Sarah is no longer alone.
From the moment Heath whistles to Sarah from the edge of the campsite I believed I knew the path the story would take but the twist in the plot left me breathless, catching me unaware. In hindsight the clues are there in the story, hiding, at times, in plain sight, but Brown masterfully plays on the reader's expectations and with careful, but never obvious, manipulation, subverts the truth.
Sarah's reason for being on the mountain is seemingly clear while Heath is the enigma. He appears untruthful, giving vague answers to even the simplest of questions and as Sarah's suspicion of him grows, so does ours. The tension builds as Sarah battles her intense attraction to Heath, who is young, fit and handsome, even though she suspects him to be dangerous. Brown skillfully develops a relationship between Sarah and Heath that is, if not entirely understandable, feasible, despite the obvious contradictions.
The sense of unease that permeates the narrative comes not only from the situation but is also carefully cultivated by Brown as she creates a disquieting landscape of thick fog, unstable ground and howling winds. Lashed by rain and in danger of flooding, the mountain is a threatening presence. Sarah and Heath's battle against the elements, and their isolation, heightens the suspense whilst enforcing intimacy with the need to keep dry and warm.
Once begun, I found it impossible to put Dark Horse aside. The pace is compelling, the tension superb and the plot veers into a breathtaking twist. Dark Horse is a finely crafted, stunning psychological thriller that I can't recommend strongly enough.
Tansy was frisky, shying away from the horse float, not wanting to go inside at all. Sarah, light and fine boned, was no match for the big black horse, especially while she was throwing her head around. When Sarah found herself flat on the ground, dazed and bleeding, with a jaw that felt broken, she knew the battle was over. Tansy had won! After putting her beloved horse in the yard, and backing the float into the garage, she went inside to clean up. The hour was still early, but it was Christmas Day…no way was she going to her Mum and Dad’s for Christmas lunch. The traumas she had just been through, including putting her house on the market, made her want to curl up and hide.
After a phone call to her father, which didn’t end well, her backpack loaded with some staple foods, and a few other necessities, she saddled Tansy and they headed off…up to the high country, up the Mortimer Ranges to the cabin called Hangman’s Hut she knew was nestled on top of Devil Mountain. Suddenly, only a short while into her ride, the weather changed. Tansy was unsettled, so she knew something was going to happen. And happen it did, with the storm hitting with a fury she hadn’t seen since the bushfires the previous season. Their safety was in jeopardy, but all Sarah could do was hang on, and leave Tansy to take the lead. Her horse knew the way, knew what was safe…but would they escape with their lives? Sarah wasn’t sure when the flash flood hit them, knocking the bridge out…
Drenched to the bone, Sarah and Tansy arrived at the hut to find the workmen’s caravan locked. Sarah needed to find dry clothes and she needed to settle Tansy. So she set about to do just that, and to wait out Christmas alone and isolated in the wilderness. When unexpectedly, an injured bushwalker arrived, seemingly alone, Sarah was suspicious. But Heath seemed genuine, he was definitely injured…so why didn’t his story add up? Sarah couldn’t work out what to do, but they were trapped by the weather, their phones didn’t work, therefore they had to make the most of the situation. But Sarah felt in more danger, she couldn’t work out Heath, and Tansy obviously didn’t like him!
I absolutely loved this book! The explosive twist near the end of the book was something I definitely didn’t expect…it was brilliant! Full on from the beginning, it kept me reading long into the night (clichéd but true!) Aussie author Honey Brown is a relatively new author to me, but I will definitely be reading everything of hers I can lay my hands on! Highly recommended.
Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Books for this ARC copy to read and review.
4 ★s I’m a big fan of Honey Brown's writing. Her earlier book Red Queen strongly grabbed my attention and my imagination with the intensity of its psychological suspense. This story shares a few elements in common with the earlier book - a remote, claustrophobic location, male and female protagonists in a highly fraught situation, guaranteed to draw out all sorts of feelings and prejudices.
Sarah Barnard, mid 30s, recently made penniless and homeless by her ex-husband’s infidelities and fraud, is a passionate horse woman. Her pride and joy is Tansy, her pure black horse, a champion cross-country competitor, who has a nervous disposition.
Sarah takes Tansy for a bush ride on Christmas Day, instead of going to her family luncheon. An extreme weather event breaks over Devil Mountain, causing a flash flood and stranding her. Historic Hangman’s Hut, with adjacent camping ground, is on the high slope of the mountain, which is located in the fictitious Mortimer Ranges of country Victoria. She rides up to take shelter from the storm in the semi-ruinous hut.
The next day, Boxing Day, she is joined by a handsome young man Heath, similarly stranded, who is not all he seems to be. They must wait out the vile weather before descending the mountain. There is high suspicion on both sides, and the two stranded travellers enter into a game of psychological one-upmanship. Heath has a very strong personality and is able to persuade Sarah with the strength of his assertions, even if she knows at heart that he is lying. For example, her rifle vanishes, he denies taking it, then tries to convince her that she came to the hut to take her own life in despair. Eventually they begin a sexual relationship which is quite tender, and both disclose a little more of their personal stuff.
Heath has lots of excuses for not going down the mountain to seek rescue, and his prevarication seems ominous. The vile weather does not improve the situation, and creates a really claustrophobic atmosphere. When a land slip causes Heath to become trapped in the ruinous hut, Sarah rides Tansy to the location of his car to get vital equipment to help free him. Items in the car reveal that his real name is Brody Heatherton, and he works for Parks Victoria. While on this difficult ride, she encounters the emergency services personnel, but also, more ominously, police special forces. Their threatening manner and ready display of firearms prompts Sarah to race off into the scrub and take an alternate route back to her lover on the rapidly deteriorating hillside.
Eventually their time together comes to an unhappy end. A huge twist in the tale occurs, one consequence of which is that Sarah might be seen as an unreliable narrator. But we're not really sure.
This novel is quite a taut, well written psychological thriller. The scenario is much smaller and more contained than Red Queen, which was genuinely nerve-wracking. This one doesn’t have the scale and scope of the other Honey Brown books I’ve read. However, the twist in the tale is a genuine shock, and the subsequent court proceedings once the pair are rescued off the mountain make for fascinating reading.
For me, the core of the story is about the interrelationship between what people want to believe and what is the truth. How far people will stretch the truth or lie for their loved ones is an interesting question, well illustrated in this book. We all see things with different perspectives, and through our personal filters. The judicial system is certainly fallible, as ably demonstrated in this fascinating human drama story.
If you’re a fan of Jaye Ford’s Beyond Fear, Dawn Barker’s Fractured and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, you’re going to love Dark Horse. It’s quite a ride. I would have read it in one sitting, if I hadn’t had to sleep. I curled up in front of a glowing slow combustion stove and, while the weather went crazy outside, was swept into the drama.
Brown has a style that I love: it’s immediate, the descriptions are fresh, the action is urgent. I could almost feel the Victorian alpine hills crowding in, felt every bump and jerk of the heroine’s ride up the mountain on her endurance-trained horse, held my breath at the enormity of what she faced going up, when she reached the summit and going down again. It’s that kind of book: suspenseful, urgent, adrenaline-pumping.
And it’s clever. I’m used to twists in suspense fiction and I can usually read the signs. This book proved no exception, except I realised I was being played. Every time I anticipated the narrative, there was an unexpected payoff; each time I thought something was unlikely or stretched credulity, it proved well motivated or explained.
It was the perfect read for a rainy day, better than a movie.
Do I go away with things to think about? I’m not sure. It ranges over what, to me, is very interesting territory: the extremes of human emotions and behaviour; infidelity; depression/mental illness; the breakdown of relationships; childhood trauma and its effects on the family. It belongs to the “family drama with crime” genre that writers like Wendy James and Caroline Overington are so successfully carving a niche in. It’s edgy. It’s sexy, too. But I’m not sure the degree to which it touched me emotionally and intellectually, or simply thrilled me. (To explore this further would necessitate spoilers.)
What it did do is confirm for me that Australian women psychological suspense writers are right up there among the best in the genre. I’m also glad I have two more Honey Brown books, The Good Daughter and After the Darkness, tucked away for another rainy day.
A slightly longer version of this review appeared on my blog.
“After witnessing last year’s fifty-metre-high rolling fireballs, she’d wondered if the treetops were truly Satan’s home. And God resided in the water. Everything about that fire had smacked of hell.” – Dark Horse
This is my second Honey Brown book. And while I enjoyed After the Darkness, this has to be my favourite read of the year so far. I literally couldn’t put it down.
Dark Horse delivers on all fronts. There is not a moment when something isn't happening. Brown somehow manages to imbue every setting and every exchange with suspense, which is all the more surprising given the small cast of characters – one woman, one man, a horse and the weather. Simply masterful.
I also love it when a twist catches you by surprise – especially when all the clues are there.
Days after I finished reading Dark Horse, I found myself still thinking about the story. It is a rare book that stays with me like that.
OMG well did not see this ending!!! Another must read, I had the guy in the bush as the bad one, that's all I will say. Now as everyone knows I wasn't sure about this author to start with....however, I stand corrected I have now read all of her novels...all I can say is I will be the first to buy her next novel. Hope you are writing another novel now Honey Brown as I am waiting to read it.
Sarah can’t spend Christmas at her mum and dad’s house, she just can’t. Still navigating the wreckage of her marriage, and the discovery that her husband of ten years had been having numerous affairs throughout their relationship, Sarah opts out of any festivities and instead decides to spend the day in the mountains. She saddles her prized black mare, Tansy, packs a picnic and a shotgun and sets out for the ranges that were once her office . . . this is one of the last times Sarah will be able to enjoy a Devil Mountain ride, since she’s also losing her horse trail business along with her house and husband.
Being out in nature is just what Sarah needed. To get away from the hurt and pitying looks of town residents who know her sad story. Sarah and Tansy enjoy one of their last days in the ranges together . . . until the heavens open up.
A flash flood decimates the mountain, and Sarah barely escapes with her life and her horse – but the one way off the mountain is flooded. Sarah and Tansy are forced to take shelter at Hangman’s Hut, a property belonging to the long-dead bushranger Sid, which is currently under heritage restoration.
The rain pours, but Sarah is content – she has shelter, some provisions, a shotgun for safety and she spoke to her father before coming up the mountain. Help will come, when the rain stops.
But before help can arrive, a stranger does. Sarah hears a noise in the middle of the night, and finds a young man stuck in the mud and unable to help himself – he claims to have a busted knee, a dead phone and his car is stranded somewhere higher up on the mountain. His name is Heath, and he needs Sarah’s help – she’s his only hope.
‘Dark Horse’ is the new suspense-thriller from Australian author, Honey Brown.
Bloody brilliant – those are the only two words that come to mind in trying to summarize this book.
Brown sets the dreary, isolated scene – introducing readers to Sarah and Tansy, and pieces of the sad story that finds them alone on Devil Mountain on Christmas day. Sarah is still reeling from the disagreeable disintegration of her marriage, after discovering that her husband of ten years had been cheating on her for all of them. Sarah refuses to spend Christmas nursing a broken heart at her parent’s house and, knowing her property has been sold and horse trail business dissolved, she decides on one last trek to the ranges to say goodbye.
This Australian story is set somewhere in Tasmania – Devil Mountain being a dense rainforest similar to Gippsland or the Dandenong Ranges. It’s a primal, isolated setting, and for a long time Sarah and Tansy are our only characters – a woman and her horse battling the elements as they become increasingly deadly. It’s a wonderful introduction for Sarah; a clearly broken woman whose confidence has been rocked by her husband’s infidelities and her very foundations shaken by all she has lost in the divorce. And yet, readers are privy to Sarah’s sudden burst of strength and determination –battling against the elements to save herself, and her beloved mare. It immediately introduces us to a fascinating dichotomy in the character; that even if Sarah doesn’t believe in herself, readers know that deep down she still has an unbreakable spirit.
After Sarah survives the flash flood and takes shelter in Hangman’s Hut, Honey Brown introduces her (now trademark) “what if?” quandary – by throwing a stranded, injured young man into the mix. Sarah, already vulnerable in so many ways, is now stranded atop this mountain with a strange man. Their first meeting hardly assuages her worries;
Rain had slowed. The wind had died down. With the light gone from his forehead and shining from a different angle, the shadows on his face changed and his age was more apparent. He was in his late twenties. He had a youthful gleam in his eyes, liveliness even though he was cold and battered. From all accounts, you’d think he was revelling in the intensity, exactly like a young man would, everything an adventure. The smile he gave her emerged white from within the mud mask. ‘I promise I’m not Ted Bundy.’ ‘Sorry?’ ‘The killer.’ ‘Huh?’ ‘The murderer who pretended to have a broken leg to lure women.’ Sarah frowned. ‘Bad joke,’ he said.
From here the book takes its twisting turns and spirals into a primal thriller. And this is where Brown always succeeds in her books – she breaks her characters down to their animal natures; she leaves them vulnerable and backed into corners and then sees how they react.
I loved that ‘Dark Horse’ is a very tight, almost claustrophobic book with minimal cast – the spotlight being firmly on Sarah, Heath and the horse, Tansy (who is most definitely a character in herself!). ‘Dark Horse’ actually reads a bit like a play for its character-driven schematic, in which conversations between Sarah and Heath become intense double-talk and laden in secrets and silences and then switch in increments to something sensual but equally dangerous. Add mother-nature raging just beyond the hut’s doors and this becomes a very intense, masterful suspense story that does a whole lot with very little – two characters in an abandoned hut on the side of a mountain, and yet Brown’s book is a heart-palpitating page-turner.
What always works for me in Honey Brown’s books is that her characters and scenarios always feel very instinctual. I never read her books feeling like she, as the author, is pushing the story or manipulating the characters – their actions always feel very natural and there are so many times when a character’s response is in keeping with what I believe I would do in such a situation. And that’s the mark of a truly masterful storyteller – when you can’t even see who’s pulling the strings because you’re so engrossed by the play unfolding before you.
I refuse to spoil this book for anyone; because there are moments that are gaspable and all the more fun for Honey Brown’s sideswipes. I will only say that she well and truly got me – perfect sucker punch right to the gut, and I loved every twisting moment of it.
I became a Honey Brown devotee back with ‘The Good Daughter’ and ‘Red Queen’ – and of course she suckered me into last year’s release, ‘After the Darkness’ – so I really shouldn’t be surprised that ‘Dark Horse’ is another killer thriller from the new (red) queen of Aussie suspense . . . but I am. This is another book that had my heart racing and palms sweating – Honey Brown even managed to elicit audible gasps from me. And, as always happens when I get to the end of a Honey Brown book, the second I read the last page I wanted another of her novels to consume. I’ll just have to be content to wait, and know that whatever she writes next will no doubt be another wholly satisfying affair.
‘We hope you enjoy your journey to the famous site of bushranger Sid Gibson’s grave at Hangman’s Hut’
It’s Christmas morning on the edge of the Victorian high country. Sarah Barnard’s marriage has collapsed, her trail-riding business has been bankrupted, and her parents have invited her to spend the day with them. Sarah’s determined to get some time to herself, and rides her horse Tansy up into the Mortimer Ranges. Riding up to Hangman’s Hut, a flash flood washes away the bridge Sarah and Tansy crossed. Sarah continues on, hoping that once the weather passes she’ll be able to find her way back down the mountain safely. Sarah finds an abandoned workmen’s camp which provides shelter and some food and settles in for the night. And then she finds a lone, injured and unequipped bushwalker. His name, he says, is Heath. Sarah finds his presence unsettling, and his story and subsequent actions don’t make sense. The weather allows little respite, and when food starts to run low, Sarah searches for help.
‘All that mattered was not dying.’
There are a few twists in this story which add to the suspense. Physical discomfort is one aspect of Sarah and Heath’s ordeal, another is the fact that things go missing: it’s almost as though a third person is present. Heath seems to be hiding something, which makes Sarah wonder if he really is who he says he is. Is Sarah in danger?
I thought I knew where this story was going, and I was completely wrong. Which was good, because the story that unfolded was much more interesting than the one I thought I was going to read. Until, that is, the end. I didn’t care much for the end – but that’s me writing a different story. I read this on a wet, cold autumn afternoon: just perfect. This is the first novel I have read by Honey Brown: I’ll be looking out for others.
I feel I'm not equipped to properly review this genre as I'm so new to it, but I'm equipped to have witnessed a story that held my attention from first word to last. Honey Brown (she has her own amazing story to tell - I only realised today - and seems to be a woman of amazing strength) has written a fantastic, gripping, clever, engaging and utterly enjoyable story. My main indicator of a books enjoyment is not wanting to put it down, not wanting to do what I should be doing and avoiding it all possible cost, and this was me the last few days! I didn't get the twist, but I got what it wasn't, so I was very happy to be in that position. Honey Brown covered mental illness to a T, I think so many of us come across it in our day to day lives and it's nice to see writers understanding it and not sensationalising it or not 'getting it'. During my reading time (which is precious) I stopped and added all her books to my tbr list. The two main characters here I found to be believable and likeable, and I really did enjoy reading their story. I strongly recommend Dark Horse to one and all, and it's evident I've found yet another talented and capable Australian Author. Well done!
It’s Christmas Day and Sarah is lamenting her losses. She tells her parents she won’t be coming to their Christmas Day lunch and then she saddles her beloved black mare Tansy. What she needs is to be up in the mountains, away from everything. She packs a few things and then takes to the trails.
The weather surprises her – the flash flood sneaking up on her and it’s only by the skin of their teeth that she and Tansy avoid some sort of disaster. Sarah heads high up the mountain to the Hangman’s Hut, a historical site and where a bushranger met his end. It’s currently undergoing restoration but there’ll be enough shelter there for her and Tansy to wait out the storm.
But then Sarah gets some company.
Heath arrives in the night and Sarah knows that he’s not just an ordinary walker lost his way. Too much of what he says doesn’t add up – the pauses between answers, the way his eyes skitter away from hers. But he’s also got an injured knee and Sarah grudgingly accepts that the two are going to have to wait out the rain, wind and fog together until they can be rescued. But it isn’t long before Sarah starts noticing…things. Why does she feel like Heath is sabotaging their only chance of rescue? Where is his car? What was he doing on the mountain and why won’t he talk about it? Why does he keep a stash of things from her, including some things that are Sarah’s own? And why, despite all of these things, are the two of them growing closer and closer? If Sarah can’t trust him, then why can’t she also stay away from him? She doesn’t know who the real Heath is.
Dark Horse is Australian author Honey Brown’s most recent suspenseful thriller, following up from After The Darkness, The Good Daughter and Red Queen. I’ve read two of her previous novels and love the way that Brown sucks the reader in with a brilliantly written story where everything turns out to be nothing as it seems. So I was extremely excited for this book and I was looking forward to what Brown had created this time.
Sarah has had everything taken away from her at the start of the novel – all she has left is Tansy. She seems intent on going up into the mountains to be away from people, everything. Sarah ran a trailriding business and knows the area extremely well and she copes extraordinarily when the weather turns and a flash flood damages a bridge. It means that Sarah will most likely be trapped on the mountain until the water recedes, something that would panic most people but not her. She makes her way to the Hangman’s Hut and uses what’s left from the workers who are doing the restoration to get herself comfortable.
The arrival of Heath does throw her composure – as it would anyone’s. She’s a woman alone on a mountain, no way of communicating with the outside world when a mysterious man shows up. He has no gear with him, he’s vague about what he’s doing there and avoids answering questions. He hesitates over his own name. Sarah doesn’t want to trust him and it soon looks like she has all the reasons in the world not to. She suspects him of tampering with her possessions, she suspects that he plans to take Tansy and get down off the mountain alone, leaving her up there. Despite these things and the circling conversations they have that are peppered with distrust, she also shares things with Heath. They share things with each other, their close proximity also forming a sort of bond as well as building up suspicion. Sarah seems glimpses of a Heath she can trust and yet at other times she feels as though he’s going to do something terrible.
The atmosphere in this novel is amazing. Despite it being Christmas Day, it’s raining, the fog is heavy, it’s windy and it’s miserable. Sarah and Heath are almost always soaked to the skin, shivering and trying to warm up using the meager supplies that they have. The weather lends an ominous vibe to this book, it’s definitely the sort of weather where you expect bad things to happen. Despite the bleakness of it, there’s also something terribly romantic about the setting as well. A man and a woman, alone with no way of rescue in the foreseeable future, huddling together under blankets, sharing things about themselves. It makes the reader want to believe in Heath, that he is a good guy and that there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for his vagueness, his abrupt changing of subjects, his refusal to share anything other than his first name, which is so obviously a lie.
And then, despite the fact that I have read Honey Brown before, and I know what she’s capable of making you think, this novel still utterly slayed me.
This is a novel that contains, for the most part, only two characters and takes place on a mountain top and it is a masterpiece. The writing is tight and purposeful and the plot is so well executed. Brown perfectly builds the suspense, the unease between Sarah and Heath but yet slips in the hint, the question, of more between them. Brown is gifted at lulling the reader into believing something, into making them think that they might have it figured out. I love the fact that even though I know something will not be as it seems, I never figure out what it is. The reveal is always mindblowing and it makes the book such an amazing experience to read.
If you like a well constructed psychological thriller or you’ve read and liked any of Brown’s previous novels then this one is an absolute must. It’s a delicate exploration of the mind and what can happen as well as what can happen between two people underneath a fragile trust that keeps being broken and knit back together. It ticks all the boxes.
I must have been living under a rock? How have I not read Honey Brown before this .... Dark Horse blew my mind.
It's intense, edgy and tight. Dread creeps - pulse quickens - adrenalin pumps - heart sits in throat and you read til 3am because there's just no way you can sleep not knowing and when you figure out where it's going ... sucker punch right in the guts.
The disintegration of her marriage and business hasn't put Sarah in the mood for celebrating, rather than face Christmas Day with her parents she heads into the rugged Mortimer Ranges with her beloved mare Tansy. As mother nature rages, flash flooding traps Sarah and Tansy on Devil Mountain but she's not the only one battling the elements.
Heath's arrival adds a new level of tension to the already ominous undercurrent. Days of isolation in the old bushranger's hut fuels an intense attraction between the two but Heath's evasive and secretive behaviour feeds Sarah's distrust.
Brown explores dark territory; primal instincts, betrayals, lies, secrets. The weather is a character in itself making Dark Horse an intensely atmospheric read, eerily beautiful - raising goosebumps and a deep sense of foreboding.
Hand on heart, Dark Horse is the best psychological suspense I've read in years. I'd love nothing more than to pick it up and start again, and I never do that. It's a 2013 favourite and I can't wait to get my hands on Honey Brown's backlist.
Intense, mysterious, intriguing, dangerous, all of these can easily describe Honey Brown's soon to be released novel Dark Horse.
As described in the blurb it's Christmas Day, and with a broken down business and marriage, Sarah sets off with Tansy (her horse) to escape reality when a freak storm hits and traps them both on the mountains. But they aren't the only ones trapped. An elusive, mysterious Heath is also there with excuses and stories that just don't seem right to Sarah. Can he be trusted? Can she be trusted with him?
Honey Brown had me glued to her every word, anxious and excited with what was to come. The storyline was heavily descriptive, making it so easy to picture the landscapes and scenes in my mind and that mixed with the unpredictable scenarios makes for one intensely thrilling story. With a dangerous attraction and a mind-blowing (and I mean MIND-BLOWING, the ones where you nearly fall off your chair!) twist towards the end, Honey Brown has delivered a well written and thought-out thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat, unable to sit still with anticipation.
It's Christmas day but instead of celebrating with her family Sarah Barnard is heading for the rugged Mortimer Ranges. With her marriage and business down the tubes, she is desperate to escape and is happy to spend the Christmas/New Year break alone on the mountain with just her beloved horse Tansy for company.
In too much of a hurry to check the weather forecast, Sarah is taken by surprise when a major weather event creates rains of biblical proportions with an accompanying flood, the like of which Sarah has never seen before. Against all odds she makes it to the top of the mountain and takes refuge in the old hut located there. Settling in for an extended stay, Sarah is startled when a lone bushwalker appears to share her very basic shelter.
Although outwardly a seemingly normal guy, Sarah is immediately suspicious of Heath - an uneasiness she cannot shake. Why is he alone without any gear or supplies? Why won't he share any details about himself? Forced to share meagre supplies of food, dry clothing and bedding, the pair soon become intimate - but Sarah is still on her guard. And when her gun and phone battery go missing, she knows she could be in real danger.
The character of Sarah is wonderfully drawn and fully three dimensional. Battered and bruised both physically and emotionally, she takes a little getting used to, but I could not help but admire her as she gradually revealed herself.
Right from the get go this book had a delicious and unrelenting suspense that continued to grow as the story progressed. Coupled with the gloomy and unforgiving setting, the result is a story that takes an unrelenting hold and doesn't let go. Then just when you think you have it all worked out, a huge U-turn emerges, taking you in a completely different direction and questioning all that went before.
Overall a gripping, suspenseful, roller coaster of a read that I just couldn't put down.
If this book had had one more workshop and edit, it could have been a 3. Unfortunately as it is printed, it doesn't make sense. It feels like three different drafts of the same story sliced together, but the conflicting details haven't been ironed out yet.
I gave it one star because I read it all the way to the end, mostly out of a sense of bewilderment, and another because I thought the twist was a genuinely clever one. It just wasn't well set up. And the sexual relationship between Sarah and Brody was baffling from either standpoint before or after the reveal.
Honey Brown’s latest thriller, Dark Horse, is the kind of book you should not pick up without giving yourself enough time-out to finish it. Did it see me walk around the house in a daze, giving blank stares to any family member brave enough to approach me? Did it force me to survive on cold leftovers for a day because I did not want to waste valuable reading time by going shopping? Did it cause me to lodge my BAS statement late despite the threat of a hefty fine? Yes, yes and yes. Was it worth it? Yes, definitely! I reluctantly emerged from my bedroom, feeling emotionally battered like the survivor of a natural disaster – and probably looking like one, too, from lack of sleep! A mere hour after finishing it, I am still in the grips of this haunting tale, tempted to pick it back up again and start from the beginning, to find all the clues I missed along the way.
Still reeling from a nasty divorce, financial ruin and the prospect of losing both her business and her home, Sarah Barnard cannot muster up the energy to spend Christmas Day under the accusing stares of her parents, who somehow blame her for the breakup of her marriage and the downhill slide her life has taken. Saddling her beloved black mare Tansy, she heads for the one place she knows will give her sanctuary and solace – the rugged mountains of the Mortimer Ranges behind her home. Sarah knows this part of the bush well – she has taken visitors through these trails many times as part of her doomed trail riding business. And yet something doesn’t feel quite right on the mountain today. Before Sarah has the chance to check the weather forecast on her phone, Tansy is spooked by a deafening roar in the distance and both horse and rider gape in horror as the huge wave caused by a flash flood is bearing down on them. They barely escape with their lives, but are now trapped on the other side of the flooded creek, with the weather closing in rapidly. Knowing the mountain well, Sarah heads for the only place which can give them shelter – a lonely historic bushranger’s hut on top of Devil’s mountain.
Arriving at the hut soaked through to the skin and bitterly cold, Sarah finds it partly demolished and under repair. She finds food and shelter in a workman’s caravan, enough to see her through for a few days. But then, in the distance, she hears the whistling – she is not alone on the mountain. Who is Heath, the young man who has invaded her sanctuary? His name, his story, his whole demeanour appear to be one big lie to Sarah. His reasons for being here don’t add up. And yet, to survive, she must set her misgivings aside and share the food and shelter they have, until help arrives. But can she really trust him?
This taut and adrenaline-infused novel, with its cast of two (or three if you count the mare) is purely atmosphere and character driven, and Honey Brown does this so very well. From the moment Sarah puts her feet in the stirrups and heads for the hills, the scenery played out clearly for me in my head, bringing the mountain to life. In an interview with the author I read recently, she explained that she enjoys exploring the what-if’s in life. What if you were trapped on a lonely mountain, in the pouring rain, with no way of getting back and noone even knows where to look for you? And if that wasn’t bad enough, what if you now found that you have the company of a total stranger, trapped there on the mountain with you, a man whose whole reason for being there seems a lie? Well, it surely had me hooked, and I couldn’t put the book down until I had found out the answers.
By having a cast of only two, the novel may have been in danger of becoming monotonous or dry if written by a lesser writer. No fear of that with Dark Horse though – the dialogue was taut and urgent, the atmosphere creepy and the character’s emotions compelling. Every time I thought I had worked it out, a surprise twist or action would totally blow that theory out of the water again. And in the end I was so blindsighted that the truth left me gaping in surprise and horror – what???? No way!
Apart from the suspense, Dark Horse explores some of the intricacies of the human mind. Faced by danger, do we turn to the only other human near us for solace, despite the obvious dangers? Brown, who is no stranger to trauma and despair, captures both emotions skilfully in her characters, who each bear scars of their own which will affect their actions and behaviours. Whenever I thought Sarah’s actions to be irrational, and asked myself “what would you do?”, it ultimately all came down to the same answer- probably exactly the same. Or would I? It is a very clever story which can explore the outer limits of human emotions and behaviour in a way that the reader can see them clearly inside oneself as well. What are we really capable off if faced by danger and despair? Who do we turn to?
After reeling in shock from the twist near the end of the novel, the rest of the story felt almost like an anticlimax and I longed to go back to the mountain in my mind, despite the spine-thrilling chills it had sent down my spine earlier. For fear of giving away spoilers, I cannot discuss why the end felt unsatisfactory (not from a writing point of view, but from the emotions unleashed earlier), although it was perhaps the only reasonable conclusion that also allowed for hope and closure. And yet – it made me feel sad somehow.
Dark Horse is a must-read for any thriller lover and will undoubtedly be savoured by many. Readers who enjoyed Brown’s previous novels or other books in the same genre, such as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, should rush out NOW and read Dark Horse. Stock up on food and drink, unplug the phone, put a Do Not Disturb sign on your bedroom door and let yourself get carted off to an unforgettable adventure on Devil Mountain. You will not regret it.
This is the best book I've read for ages. I've abandoned so many books lately that it was a relief as well as a pleasure to pick up one I didn't want to put down.
I read a Honey Brown book years ago that I didn't like at all and that put me off reading her others. But I saw this one praised highly by a friend the other day and thought I'd give it a try. And, wow - it was so cleverly written. I loved the location, the terrible weather, the tension on the mountain, and the twist. I borrowed it from the library but will be seeking out my own copy, as I know I'll want to read it again.
I do wish the editing had been better, though. The occasional grammatically incorrect sentences and typos irritated me and should have been picked up. The publisher let Honey Brown down in this respect. Still, it's definitely a 5 star read for me.
A failed ride-trek entrepreneur Sarah rides off to a mountain to spend her Christmas in solitude, away from her shambles of a marriage and overbearing parents. Following a storm, she bumps into a mystery man, Heath, and they are forced to camp together for days in deteriorating conditions, caring for Sarah's precious horse Tansy. Events take a turn for worse when Sarah realises that for her best interest, she should be as far from the mountain and Heath as possible.
The book is well-paced, depicts the Australian outback beautifully and builds the sense/urgency of survival credibly. I didn't see the end twists coming and was happy with where the story led. The characters are likable and FOR ONCE the romantic(?) hero(?) Heath is not overbearing, dominating or a B-grade lewd fabio, but is struggling alongside Sarah and is realistically shy/considerate/ambiguous. The mountain and the horse are as important as the human characters and Sarah's love for both comes through viscerally.
2.5 Veamos 🤔 una mujer recién divorciada se va a la montaña a ahogar sus penas en soledad con su yegua favorita considerada casi como una hija. Se queda incomunicada en la montaña, conoce a un extraño y misterioso desconocido que por supuesto es más atractivo que aterrador. Todo el desarrollo de la historia va de que él no quiere revelar nada de su vida a la mujer y de sus sospechas sobre este hombre. Historia lenta.
An twist that I never saw coming. What I thought was the truth and I had worked out what was going on made this book even more interesting then what it was. A great Australian author, whom I have never read before has made me interested in reading other books by Honey Brown.
Set in the Australian bush, Dark Horse is the story of Sarah, a divorcee who appears to set out on horseback for some 'alone time' in the Mortimer Ranges on Christmas morning.
Bad weather soon springs up and flash flooding takes out the bridge and most of the riding tracks. Sarah takes her horse to high ground, setting up camp at Hangman's Hut. All is relatively calm until a handsome and well-built man walks out of the bush and turns the story on it's head.
Where did he come from? Why doesn't he have any supplies and why is he behaving strangely? All these questions will be answered, but not in the way you expect. Dark Horse is a thriller of the highest order, and the twist totally blew my head off! I definitely did not see it coming.
Author Honey Brown is able to create a realistic scenario where two characters are essentially trapped in the Australian bush while her descriptions of the bush are both eerie and impressive at the same time.
Readers who love horses will enjoy the role Sarah's horse Tansy plays, although by the end of the novel I must admit I was a little tired of the horse and the name Tansy. That's my only complaint though, and thoroughly recommend Dark Horse to readers who enjoy a good thriller, a twist they don't see coming and of course novels by Aussie authors!
I picked up Dark Horse by Honey Brown from the local library. I've been meaning to read more of her work after finishing and loving Red Queen last year.
I find this book really hard to review because I don't want to give away spoilers. The setting of the Australian Bush during a flood at Christmas time is vivid enough for you to smell the mud. This country of ours is under-appreciated for how rough, rugged, and beautiful it really is and shines as a backdrop.
Honey Brown has a fantastic way of drawing you deep into a character's life without revealing the darkest of secrets or the truth until you least expect it, and they are never what you think they will be. I loved Sarah and her connection to Tansy, felt terribly sorry for her, but admired her determination to seek out a new life. I was drawn to the mysterious Heath who appeared secretive but also kind. He clearly wanted to help Sarah, but was torn by whatever other secrets he has hidden. The secrets are unravelled slowly and the biggest one has you questioning everything that came before it.
My only issue with this book was the very end of it. Again, hard to explain why without giving spoilers away, but I was a little torn over Sarah's reactions to everything.
Another great psychological thrill ride from one of my favourite authors Honey Brown. Brilliant characters, tense original setting, unexpected twist you won't see coming and some great writing. I read this book within 24 hours. A real page turner. If you are familiar with this great Australian author you'll know her trademark is taking the readers into dark territory where you begin to question everything. I also recommend her earlier books especially the brilliant Red Queen. Buy a copy now ... You won't be disappointed.
This book had a lot of potential. But sadly, it was far from the thrilling game of cat and mouse I had anticipated. The two main characters were uninteresting and at times, plain weird. Maybe their backgrounds weren't explored enough to know them, but I couldn't relate to them. The story line was drawn out and patchy, and I found myself skipping ahead a couple of pages at a time trying to get interested. After loving Red Queen so much, I had high hopes for this one. Disappointed.
Una excelente novela llena de intriga y paranoia que te hará dudar de todo. Me encanto avanzar pagina a pagina en un mundo de sospechas, dudas e incluso romance. No me esperaba el giro final de la historia pero ahora que he terminado me fijo que las claves estaban allí. Honey Brow ha entrado en la lista de autores que me gusta leer
Una buena historia donde nada es lo que parece! Y ágil de leer, aunque de repente sentía un poco pesadas las descripciones de lugares y situaciones. Frase favorita: Aquel venado me enseñó que no es un pecado hacer lo que sea para seguir adelante. El pecado es dejar que el agua te lleve sin luchar.
I have loved Honey Brown's novels since the first one came out. This is no exception. Tense, taut and a hell of a ride - all with one big twist at the end that I didn't see coming. Brown deserves to be known as one of the best Australian thriller writers around.