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Halt at X: A North of Boston Novel Paperback – May 16, 2015
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About the Author
Sally Ann Sims is a writer, artist, and conservation scientist. Halt at X is her first novel.
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I write non-fiction books (on North Carolina women's history and ski resort architecture nationally) but was pleasantly surprised to discover just how good this mystery novel was.
Once you get into the book, it is a page-turner. I have given this book to many friends for Christmas. You don't have to care about college fundraising, horse dressage, or even the suburbs north of Boston to become engrossed in what is going to happen to the protagonists.,
Kudos to Sally Sims for a great first novel. I am looking forward to more to come!
Lucinda made a mistake with a roguish horseman, and the affair was over long before her husband got to hear of it. Obviously, this indicated that her marriage wasn't perfect in the first place, but she's been trying to paper over the cracks. Now her husband blames her for his alcohol problems and leaves. Berating herself all over again, Lucinda throws herself into her work. She's a fundraiser for a prestigious business and biotech college.
I have to say that this aspect is beyond weird for me. In Ireland and Britain, the concept of a person or company funding a university facility or professorship would equate with corruption. One wealthy family receives the brief comment that they are trying to gain a place for a son; an apparently serious discussion on ethics has the fundraising team debating whether a commercial company should be allowed to fund a department, place their own professor and dictate policy. Answer: whatever is best for the college. This is deliberately posed as a provocative question; and a document on agreed ethics prevents fundraisers from gaining kickbacks or being paid according to the sum they raise. But there is a slush fund of a million or so set aside solely to entertain and woo donors, who may contribute thirty-five million dollars. Anyone else see any problems arising? Given that this system is accepted at institutional education level, the morass of lobbying American politicians cannot be a surprise.
Another issue which baffled me is that a staff member complains that someone has been accessing and altering data on the fundraising program using her login. Nobody says "Call IT." Nobody tells her to change her login immediately. There is no computer security policy or staff in place. If there was, an IT staff member would change the login and block the original one, trace who had used it, when, and how they accessed the computer. They have to do this right away, in case of a hacker. Colleges have hackers inside and out, read 'The Accidental Billionaires' about the founding of Facebook. And the hapless staff member should demand to be separated from any taint with all this funding at stake. So this in no way rings true.
We never see a single student or hear about their lives or studies. All we see are department heads, admin staff, management, who don't talk about students but themselves. In a college the students seem to be completely forgotten and absent from the scene.
I definitely enjoyed the horse details, which as the title 'Halt At X' would indicate, tend to dressage. Lucinda accepts the challenge of rescuing a mare just off the racetrack, which has been fed steroids - again, in Ireland and Britain, enough to get a trainer potentially banned for life. This happens in general training? However this good deed, while filling the void left by Lucinda's husband's departure, puts her back in the proximity of the Don Juan horseman who is nonchalant about making enemies on the circuit. Seems Lucinda's got an enemy too, as someone unknown scares and occasionally stalks her. The tension mounts both at work and at home, and her husband hasn't gone far either. I did find myself reading to see what happened, hoping the horses would be okay and that a good resolution would be found in several areas.
Anyone who works in the thorny area of raising funds may be interested in this tale, or those who want a subtly romantic tale of a strong woman facing challenges in business and trials of the heart.