Saturday, April 14, 2018

A British Bloodstock Agent Finds Trouble and Danger in this Novel from Dick Francis

I'm generally a fan of the novels of Dick Francis, most of which are set in the world of British horse racing. This one, though, was something of a disappointment. It fits the mold of most Francis novels: the protagonist is in his mid-thirties--a man who has been damaged but who is tough, determined, smart, and who refuses to back down in the face of any threat. As usual, a young woman appears who will be attracted to the protagonist, but who will not be interested in marrying him. Bad things will happen and, as is almost always the case, there will be an amoral shadowy figure who will be behind the villainy and who will stop at nothing to protect his interests.

Our hero in this case is Jonah Dereham, an ex-jockey who has been injured one too many times and can no longer race. He is now a bloodstock agent and runs afoul of a scheme that some unscrupulous agents are using to inflate their fees. They want Jonah to fall in with them and when he refuses, they determine to teach him a lesson. It's always a very bad idea to threaten a Dick Francis protagonist in this fashion and, more likely than not, they will pay a price for doing so.

By comparison to most other Francis novels, though, this one felt flat to me, or maybe just a bit too predictable. I didn't find Dereham to be a particularly attractive protagonist and the scheme here was not as inventive as the ones you most often find in a Francis novel. And to cap it off, the villain was not nearly as scary or as vicious as the ones you usually encounter in these books. Perhaps my expectations for this book were simply too high, based on the other Francis novels that I've read, but to me, this one rates only 2.75 stars, rounded up.

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