Thursday, March 16, 2017

Has Steeplechase Jockey Rob Finn Lost His Nerve?

This, the second novel by Dick Francis, was first published in 1964, and like most of his books, this one is set in the world of British horse racing. The protagonist, Rob Finn, shares all the usual characteristics and the same sort of frustrated love life as the typical Francis protagonist. He's quiet and self-effacing, which often leads people to underestimate him. But underneath, he's clever and resourceful and he has a steely resolve that does not bode well for anyone who would do an injustice to Finn or to someone he cares about.

As the book opens, Finn is a struggling young steeplechase jockey trying to work his way up the ladder to better mounts and more success. It's a tough climb, made even harder by the fact that someone is spreading stories about some jockeys that may or may not be true, but which nonetheless are causing them to lose their jobs. One fired jockey even commits suicide.

When Rob becomes the target of false rumors, though, he doesn't chuck it all and kill himself or leave racing for another profession. Rather, he begins an investigation in an effort to clear his own name and those of his friends. It's a very dangerous undertaking and he's up against an especially determined opponent. The result is a very tense story that has the reader turning the pages rapidly. 

Re-reading the first Francis novel, Dead Cert, I was a bit disappointed because the book didn't seem to be up to the standards I'd come to expect from Francis. But this one is spot-on and makes me glad that I decided to work my way through his novels again.

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