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Wednesday, October 21, 2015


4 stars out of 5

One of the most successful continuations of the works of a popular author who has passed away is, IMHO, that of Felix Francis, son of the late Dick Francis. I used to love reading the father's tales set in Great Britain's horseracing scene (most often steeplechase), and I was very sorry to learn of his death in 2010 at the age of 89. 

Felix Francis, a physics teacher, helped his father with both research and writing (as did, reportedly, the late Francis's wife and Felix's mother, Mary, who died in 2000). So in 2011, when Felix wrote his first solo book, Gamble, I wasn't too surprised that it wasn't much of a departure from earlier books Felix had co-written - nor were the three others that preceded this one.

Now that I've finished it, consider me still happy. This may not be the best of the Felix-written bunch; except for the main character, British Horseracing Authority undercover investigator Jeff Hinkley, none of the other characters ever really developed much of a "personality," although the plot moved quickly and held my attention throughout. Hinkley, by the way, also appeared in the Felix Francis-written Damage, published in 2014, but the two books stand alone.

This one begins as a popular winning jockey reveals to Hinkley that he's lost at least one race on purpose; but before he can spill the rest of the beans, he dies in what's being called a suicide. Meanwhile, Hinkley - who has come to the jockey's home to learn more - ends up locked in the jockey's super-hot sauna. Apparently, the jockey decided he didn't want his secret to get out, but then, overcome with remorse, he offed himself.

Managing to escape from the killer heat (that's not a spoiler - you wouldn't really expect the hero to die in the first few pages, did you?), Hinkley decided to do more investigating and discovers a few more irregularities of race-fixing and illegal wagers. And suddenly, he finds himself in the crosshairs of someone - or more than one someone - intent on silencing him forever.

Also of interest to me is that one of the locations where action takes place in the book is the Cayman Islands - interesting because that's where the elder Francis was when he died (he had a home there). 

Front Runner by Felix Francis (G.P. Putnam's Sons, October 2015); 381 pp.

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