5 stars out of 5
There are no words to describe the thrill of reading a mystery with a well-thought-out plot, impeccable language and not a single typo (at least not that I noticed). The late Dick Francis, father of Felix - who wrote this book on his own - never failed on any of those measures. And Felix, who co-wrote several books with his father before going it alone in four others, clearly has learned from his master's voice, churning out yet another winner in my book.
As usual, the topic is horse racing in Great Britain; in this instance, undercover investigator Jeff Hinkley is asked by the British Horseracing Authority, which governs the Sport of Kings, to do some sleuthing with regard to a trainer who's been banned from the sport for doping his horses. But then, Hinkley witnesses an unexpected murder - and the case takes a different turn.
As his investigation proceeds, Hinkley must deal with food poisoning of jockeys, a fireworks-laden steeplechase and a very real threat that jeopardizes the whole of racing in England. In the midst of all that are personal issues including his sister's dire cancer diagnosis, the threat of her son being convicted of dealing drugs and the ticking of his own biological clock (yes, apparently some guys have one of these, too).
The ending seemed a teensy bit abrupt, but on no way did that take away from an easy-reading pace that moves along quickly. In fact, my only disappointment is that it ended too soon; writing that flows this well and holds the reader's interest throughout is is short supply. Ah well, I'll just hope there's another one in the pipeline!
Dick Francis's Damage by Felix Francis (Putnam Adult, October 2014); 387 pp.