Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Another Dick Francis Protagonist Finds Himself in Serious Jeopardy

My edition of this book quotes a review from The Atlantic Monthly, indicating that the book is "guaranteed to drive the reader to hysterical dithers and jotters." I confess that I have absolutely no idea what even regular dithers and jotters might amount to, let alone hysterical ones, and while I enjoyed the book, I was not especially moved to any unusual emotional reactions.

Neil Griffon's profession is consulting with troubled companies and restoring them to good health. But then his father, who owns a large stable operation with eight-five horses in his care, is badly injured in an auto accident, and Neil is temporarily forced to leave his own job and take over the stables. Neil's relations with his father have never been good (a frequent problem for Dick Francis's protagonists), and the last thing he wants to do is assume this responsibility. Sadly, he has no choice.

No sooner does Griffon settle in than he is kidnapped by a couple of professional thugs and delivered to a rich and powerful criminal. The criminal's son, who has no experience in these matters, wishes to become a champion jockey, preferably starting tomorrow. The crook instructs Griffon to take the son into his operation and set him up on the best horse in the place in the coming race season. Should Griffon fail to do so, the crook will destroy the stables and inflict great bodily harm on Griffon himself.

Obviously, this seriously bad guy has never read a Dick Francis novel or he would have had sense enough to take his son and his threats to another stable. Anyone who ever hasread one of these books understands immediately that any Dick Francis protagonist will face such threats stoically, bravely, and intelligently. Most of all, he will never, EVER, give into such threats irrespective of the harm that will inevitably be inflicted upon him along the way.

Griffon's challenge, then, is to diffuse the situation without ever speaking of it to anyone else, the police included. Bringing them into this matter simply wouldn't be fair to the poor bad guy who has no idea who he's dealing with or what he's getting himself into. And even though I wasn't reduced to hysterical dithers and jotters (at least as far as I know), I did enjoy watching Neil Griffon wrestle with this challenge and I expect that most other readers who like this series will as well.

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