The Horse's Arse by Laura Gascoigne

The Horse’s Arse by Laura GascoigneThe Horse's Arse by Laura Gascoigne
Published by Clink Street Publishing on April 4, 2017
Source: Publisher
Genres: Crime Fiction
Pages: 220
Format: eBook
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Patrick Phelan is an ageing artist who has never made it big but who somehow manages to live on air in a North London suburb.

When not running art classes for amateurs, Patrick wrestles in the shed at the bottom of his garden with his life's work: a series of visionary canvases of The Seven Seals.

When his wheeler-dealer son Marty turns up with a commission from a rich client for some copies of paintings by modern masters, Phelan reluctantly agrees; it means money for his ex-wife Moira. However the deal with Marty is, typically, not what it seems.

What follows is a complex chain of events involving fakery, fraud, kidnapping, murder, the Russian Mafia and a cast of dubious art world characters. A contemporary spin on Joyce Cary's classic satire The Horse's Mouth, The Horse's Arse by Laura Gascoigne is a crime thriller-cum-comic-fable that poses the serious question: where does art go from here?

I admit I love a little art thrown in with my crime. I couldn’t pass up this story with its combo of art, fraud, kidnapping, and even murder. I actually enjoyed this one. It took a little while to sort everything out, but it was a fun read. I’ve got an excerpt to give you a taste.

Read an excerpt from The Horse’s Arse:

The story so far:

Daniel Colvin, a junior reporter on the art newspaper Marquette, has uncovered evidence of a dodgy deal between the international art dealer Bernard Orlovsky and the UK’s State Gallery, but just as his revelations are going to press he is knocked off his bike by a hit-and-run driver. Back home from hospital with a leg in plaster, he finds his flat has been raided. DC Yasmin Desai from the Met’s Art & Antiques Squad had warned him Orlovsky was dangerous, but he hadn’t listened…

Daniel knew there was something wrong from the light, or the absence of it.

Light usually came into the hallway through the living room windows, but although the door to the living room stood open the hallway was dark. There were no blinds on the windows, since Daniel had never got round to buying any. What was blocking the light was a piece of hardboard with a note from his landlord reading: ‘BREAK IN Wednesday evening. Police informed.’

Glass littered the desk where his laptop had been. He usually hid it when he went out, but he’d only popped to the shops.

Daniel felt faint. He hobbled over to the sofa, picking his way on crutches through the papers strewn across the floor. His desk drawers were gaping open and the carpet around them was awash with pictures of sheds.

The thesis was backed up, thank God, but everything else – three years of his life – was gone, apart from what was in his phone.

It buzzed.

‘Just checking you got home OK. x Yasmin’

‘Sort of OK, thanks. Flat broken into, computer gone.’

It rang.

“Don’t touch anything, I’m coming over to look before the local constabulary get their big fat fingers into everything. What’s the address?”

Daniel told her.

“Be with you in 10.”

Before he could reply she’d rung off.


Yasmin was coming to his flat.

The feeling of faintness gave way to a wave of panic. On a normal day the place looked like it had been burgled. How much of this squalor could be attributed to thieves?

There was nothing for it but to disobey police instructions. He scuttled about on his crutches sweeping up dirty socks and boxers, stuffing them into gaps behind the books in the bookcase, then shoving mouldy coffee mugs and half-empty beer cans under the sofa.

This was no way to welcome the woman one loved.

He got out the hoover and looked at it.

Left hand, right crutch? Right hand, left crutch?

Left hand, right crutch seemed the better option until he tried pushing the suction head over the carpet and it stuck in the pile. He experimented with using the vacuum wand as a replacement crutch and dragging his leg in plaster after him. Quasimodo on Quaaludes would have been nimbler.

He threw the hoover back into the cupboard and limped to the bedroom.

When did he last take the sheets to the launderette?

He sniffed the duvet.

One month? Two?

He opened the window.

Now for the kitchen, with a minute to go.

Too late! The doorbell. He threw the dirty pans and dishes into the swing bin and went to get it.

“Hiya,” said Yasmin.

She was dressed in jeans and a maroon leather jacket. She looked beautiful.

“Sami’s sleeping over at a friend’s house, which is lucky otherwise I couldn’t have come. Crutches!” She looked him up and down. “They rather suit you.”


He moved them back a little reluctantly to let her past.

She started with the area around his desk.

“Your computer’s gone, you say. Anything else?”

“Nothing I’ve noticed. There’s nothing else worth stealing.”

“The thieves wouldn’t know that until they looked. Opportunist thieves do a place over, open all the drawers and cupboards…”

“They might have been disturbed,” Daniel interposed, praying she wouldn’t start opening the drawers and cupboards.

“Odd,” she inspected the broken glass around the window, “it doesn’t look like your average break-in. I had a look from the outside and it’s a clean break. Done with a glasscutter. A surprisingly professional job for such slim pickings – no disrespect intended,” she turned and grinned at Daniel. “My hunch is that they won’t have left prints.”

The doorbell rang.

“Sounds as if we’re about to find out,” she called from the hallway as she went to get it.

“Good evening – DC Desai, Art & Antiques Squad,” she introduced herself to two police officers standing outside. “The victim is a friend of mine.”

“Been in the wars, I see,” said the older officer to Daniel.

“Yes, that as well. Not my lucky week.”

“Cup of tea?” asked Yasmin.

She had taken over.

While the senior officer interviewed him and the junior one dusted for prints, Daniel could hear her moving around the bedroom and kitchen. He didn’t know if this was how it felt to be violated, but it certainly felt worse than being burgled.

When the dusting was over, she returned with four mugs of tea and a crumpled bag with a spoonful of sugar in the bottom.

“No milk,” she apologized. “There was a carton but I decided against it, unless anyone fancies cottage cheese in their tea.”

She wrinkled her nose at Daniel.

“Found anything?”

“Not a sausage skin,” said the senior officer, “they were wearing gloves. A cut above your average N22 thief – round here they’re mostly either kids or crackheads. How new was the computer?”

“Three years old.”

“Not worth anything then.”

“Except to me.”

“Or someone who wanted the information on it,” put in Yasmin.

The senior officer smirked at the junior one. Detectives saw master criminals everywhere.

About Laura Gascoigne

Currently living in Hampstead, North London, Laura Gascoigne has worked as an art journalist for over twenty years, editing Artists & Illustrators (1994-1999) before going freelance. Laura was born in Cairo in 1950, the daughter of a bookseller and an Italian teacher, and grew up in Brussels and Cambridge before studying Classics at Oxford University. Her sister is the writer Marina Warner. Surrounded as a child by the paintings her father collected, she has always had a passion for art and when not writing about it, she paints.


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