Just a few hours after resigning from the Charlotte Observer to pursue a career in fiction, Jody Jaffe was stricken with hysterical blindness—at the supermarket, no less. Thankfully, Jaffe says, her sight returned “about 20 minutes later,” and although the anxiety-induced breakdown seemed like a good reason to return to the daily grind, she risked further vision impairment to write Horse of a Different Killer (Ballantine Books). Horse is harnessed with rat-a-tat dialogue, Harlequinized romance, and suspenseful set pieces; the whodunit features sleuth Natalie Gold, a quick-witted reporter (slaving away at a Charlotte, N.C., paper) who investigates a series of equine and human murders linked to the glitzy world of show horses. “Creating Natalie was sort of like giving birth,” Jaffe says with a hint of melancholy. “At first she was me, I admit, but then Natalie started becoming someone else.” Though not as emotionally hardened as Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone, Gold is an engaging character; Jaffe promises that in her next horse/newspaper mystery, which will fulfill a two-book deal with Ballantine, Gold won’t be quite so thin-skinned. Jaffe, who now resides in Chevy Chase, D.C., reads from Horse at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15, at Mystery Bookshop in Bethesda.

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