Jockey Kit Fielding returns for a second appearance in this novel from Dick Francis, and he faces all sorts of problems. He's engaged to the love of his life, Danielle, but he fears that she is slipping away from him and that she may be losing enthusiasm for the prospect of life as a jockey's wife. The fact that she's gone of to Italy in the company of a sophisticated prince to look at Italian Renaissance paintings, isn't helping Kit's mood much.
But, while he worries about his future with Danielle, Kit is suddenly faced with more pressing problems. He rides several horses owned by Danielle's aunt, Princess Casilia. The princess, in turn, is married to Roland de Brescou, a member of the French aristocracy, who is a partner in a French construction company. De Brescou is an elderly man with a debilitating illness and he rarely leaves his room in the couple's London mansion.
Sadly, de Brescou's original partner has died, and the partner's shares in the company have been inherited by a particularly nasty character named Henri Nanterre. Nanterre wants the company to go into business of manufacturing guns for the world arms trade, but de Brescou steadfastly refuses, thinking that such a move would be immoral.
Nanterre can take no action without de Brescou's signature on the contract and he is determined to get it at any cost. He threatens everyone in the family, Kit included, with great bodily harm, or worse. He also threatens to kill the horses belonging to the Princess. In short, this is not a very genteel kind of a guy.
It will be up to Kit to try to foil Nanterre's scheme and to protect de Brescou's family and himself in the process. He will also have to foil the prince who may have designs on Danielle, and so he's in for a few hectic days.
This is a fairly good book, typical of most Dick Francis novels. Kit Fielding is a worthy protagonist, and the plot moves quickly along. If I have any complaint, it lies in the fact that, for all of the dire threats leveled by Henri Nanterre, and in spite of the truly despicable things that he actually does, there didn't seem to be as much tension in this book as there usually is in a novel by Dick Francis. This may result from that fact that, unlike in most of Francis's novels, here we know who the bad guy is from the start, and that drains some of the usual mystery and suspense from the book. A solid 3.5 stars, but not quite as good as the best books in the series.