by Maggie Estep

Author Maggie Estep has a gift for creating endearing characters such as Ruby Murphy, an innocent abroad, with friends who have her back — like her across-the-hall neighbor Pietro Ramirez and her dying friend Oliver Emmerick.

If you like such characters — and you like horses and you like New York City — chances are good, you’ll like this book.

Never one for routine and hierarchical organizations, Ruby lives on Coney Island above a furniture store and works part-time at the Coney Island Museum. She stumbles into an assignment as a private investigator when she meets a scar-faced, willowy blonde, Ariel DiCello, on the F train.

Before she knows it, she’s got a job as a hot walker for race horses at the Belmont Racetrack while she tries to get information for Ariel about her boyfriend Frank. Frank claims to be a handicapper, but Ariel can’t find proof of that. She says she loves him but suspects he’s seeing another woman. She wants Ruby to find the truth.

Ruby has no qualifications for this assignment beyond her love of horses. She fails utterly at convincing Ariel to walk away and find a better man than Frank to invest her hope in.

This book reads like a series of short stories with points of view that alternate from Ruby, her piano teacher Mark Baxter, Ramirez, Emmerick, groom Sebastian Ives and assistant trainer Ned Ward. Some have important roles in unraveling the mystery; some none. This can be annoying if you’re looking for a strong plot and more traditional story-telling. It does add to the whimsical quality of this book.

The other two books in this trilogy are:


Hex was named the New York Times Notable Book for 2003.

About the Author: Maggie Estep (1963 – 2014)

Margaret (Maggie) Ann Estep died of complications arising from a heart attack in February 2014. But within the 50 years she had, according to the New York Times, “she worked briefly as a go-go dancer, joined the punk scene and became addicted to heroin.”

Estep saw herself as a writer first and initially wrote poetry and spoken word pieces. She took up fiction writing at a drug rehabilitation clinic in the mid-1980s. She studied at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder for two years and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in literature from the State University of New York.

She appeared on Lollapalooza’s third stage in 1994 and was featured on MTV’s “Spoken Word Unplugged,” PBS’s “The United States of Poetry” and on Season 3 of HBO’s “Def Poetry.”

Her novels included DIARY OF AN EMOTIONAL IDIOT and the Ruby Murphy mystery trilogy. She had been working for several years on a novel about 19th century female gangsters and the founding of animal rights. She also had a blog.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here