By Donald McMaster, Arcadia, 2013
THIS is prolific short story writer Donald McMaster’s first venture into novel writing.
The two genres are sometimes difficult to bridge but Provocation works and packs a punch that will resonate with readers who seek action. Predictably, there is a strong biographical underpinning here. The pervading sentiment throughout is a love, indeed passion, for horses. It certainly drives the novel and presumably the author as well.
The level of equine knowledge on display here goes far beyond research. It is real. The joy, pain and precariousness of the horse business cuts close to the bone. McMaster obviously feels it and the reader feels it too.
The central character Duncan McKinley is a struggling horse breeder in Ontario, Canada. He takes an enormous gamble to resurrect his struggling business by purchasing a magnificent stallion from France. Imagine the devastation he feels to find his recently arrived animal dead in his stables, apparently disemboweled by an axe. Who would do such a horrendous thing? With blind anger and desire for revenge he begins a tortuous and dangerous journey to find the perpetrators and inflict terrible retribution. It soon emerges that the animal has been used to courier drugs. The crime now involves very big money and very bad people. Even the police seem diffident and somewhat reluctant to become involved.
McKinley is undeterred. He discovers a set of circumstances in which he can carry out his vengeance. But it’s beyond the law. There are fleeting moments of moral uncertainty that are quickly put aside.
The outcome is both shocking and exciting, and an appropriate type of justice is achieved .... but at a high price.
This is an unusual story told with, authenticity, rawness, energy and skill. It is definitely one- sitting material.