Barbara Kay knows a thing or two about good writing. As one Canada’s most widely read columnists in the National Post, she’s expressed herself forcefully and cogently for years, never mincing her words, garnering the applause of readers and sometimes their ire. Anyone approaching her debut fiction may understandably ask themselves, is Kay as compelling at crafting narrative as she is at opinionating? The answer is an emphatic yes. Many of the strengths evident in her editorials also feature robustly in her fiction. A Three Day Event is, at first glance, a crime novel set at an equestrian center in rural Quebec. The reader is steeped in the high stakes (and elitist) culture and politics of equestrian recreation and sport. But it’s the manner in which Kay employs the backdrop of heightened political, linguistic, and cultural tensions that provides this novel with added dimensions. The action pivots on the murder of a widely loathed groom, a crime complicated by anti-Semitic vandalism and the bizarre mutilation of a prized stallion. The equestrian center is owned by a Jew married to a Quebecoise. It is immediately apparent that Kay is set on exploring much more than the evil deeds perpetrated by a lowly disgruntled bigot. The insular, monied world of horse sport frames an intricate tapestry of relationships weaving together hidden agendas, professional ambitions, resentments, grudges, secrets and love affairs. The protagonist is Polo Poisson, who, although born in a stereotypical Quebecois family on the wrong side of the tracks, has been intriguingly, raised by upper-crust Jews to become a champion horseman. Polo is an unprecedented ethnic creation in Canadian fiction, a melding of immigrant Jewish and pure laine Quebecois; a tortiere pie baked in a poppy seed bagel crust. It’s a wonder that Kay can pull off such a character successfully, which she does, and the story of how Polo arrived on the steps of his adopted family is as touchingly believable as it is unusual. It’s up to Polo to solve the murder, and it’s his mixed background that provides him with the intellectual and emotional tools required to tease out the convolutions of the crime. If there is a flaw to the novel it’s one of ambition. Kay’s reach sometimes exceeds her grasp and there is a lot to digest with so many characters operating at cross purposes including the equestrian center staff and members of the ownership family, a champion rider, a veterinarian, the horse owning clients, and committee members from the equestrian federation. Some characters get short shrift, like Toronto journalist Sue Parker who shows up investigating illegal practices in the international sale of sport horses. But this is ultimately Polo’s story and Kay wants us to consider the way his fractured personal history has affected his present and future. It is apparent that Polo is emblematic of our multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, multi-faceted nation. He embodies multiple influences and loyalties that cannot easily be reconciled. In creating Polo, Kay has a point to make and she does is with nuance and grace: The key to personal reconciliation is found in family responsibility.