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Gerard Logan finds that when his jockey friend dies following a fall at the Cheltenham races, he is involved in a desperate search for a stolen video tape which embroils him in more life-threatening hazards than does his work as a widely-acclaimed glass-blower.
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After 41 novels, most writers run out of energy before the final gallop. But Dick Francis's latest thriller is as good as his earliest. Perhaps it's because this one is dedicated to the Queen Mother, who celebrated her centennial in 2000, and who, like her famously horsey daughter, shares Francis's passion for the races. Or maybe he's just found his stride again, after a few less-than-outstanding starts. Here he does one of his best tricks: lures you into a somewhat arcane area you might know little about and explicates it so brilliantly that you don't even realize how much you've learned (in this case, about glass blowing) while a mystery is unraveled, a crime is solved, and the hero gets the girl.
This time the mise en scène is the glass blowing studio owned by Gerard Logan, friend of the late Martin Stukely, a jockey who takes a fatal fall at the Cheltenham steeplechase during the last race of the century. Still mourning Martin, Gerard is savagely beaten, his workshop ransacked, and his life threatened by a gang of thugs. Investigating, Gerard discovers that the gang includes a domineering woman who's the daughter of Martin's valet and a scientist who's stolen valuable data from the laboratory that formerly employed him. They believe Gerard has possession of a videotape entrusted to him by Martin before his death and that the secrets on the tape are worth Gerard's life.
It's a good set up, with just enough of the usual horse lore and a pleasant love story involving Gerard and a pretty policewoman, neither of which overshadow the taut pacing and the well-worked-out plot. Francis's protagonists may be accidental heroes, but they're not antiheroes; they're usually eminently decent, likable men, and their sense of self is always interesting. Here's Gerard at home, in a break from the action, thinking about the new woman in his heart in a typical Francis love scene:
I walked deliberately through all the rooms, thinking about Catherine, wondering both if she would like the place, and whether the house would accept her in return. Once in the past the house had delivered a definite thumbs-down, and once I'd been given an ultimatum to smother the pale plain walls with brightly patterned paper as a condition of marriage, but to the horror of her family I'd backed out of the whole deal, and, as a result, I now used the house as arbiter and had disentangled myself from a later young woman who'd begun to refer to her and me as "an item" and to reply to questions as "we." We think. No, we don't think.And, a few pages later,
The speed of development of strong feeling for one another didn't seem to me to be shocking but natural, and if I thought about the future it unequivocally included Catherine Dodd. "If you want to cover the pale plain walls with brightly patterned paper, go ahead," I said.It may be Francis's English reticence that keeps him, mercifully, from spoiling a good mystery with what other writers consider the obligatory sex scene, or it just may be the mastery of his form that few of his peers approach. In every page of this terrific new book, he's at the top of it. --Jane Adams About the Author:
She laughed. "I like the peace of pale walls. Why should I want to change them?"
Dick Francis is the author of many bestselling mysteries, most recently Second Wind . A three-time Edgar Award-winner, the Mystery Writers of America named him Grand Master in 1996.
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Book Description Michael Joseph. Hardcover. Condition: New. 0718144538 Clean, unmarked copy. First Edition Hardcover, with dust jacket- In excellent shape! Price has been clipped from dust jacket. I can send expedited rate if you choose; otherwise it will promptly be sent via media rate. Have any questions? Email me; I'm happy to help! Select Expedited Shipping (just $2 more) to get your book as fast as possible!. Seller Inventory # SKU1032553A
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Book Description Michael Joseph Ltd., 2000. Hardcover. Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 271 Pages -- Excerpt It was at the last fence of all that Tallahassee uncharacteristically tangled his feet. Easily ahead by seven lengths he lost his concentration, hit the roots of the unyielding birch and turned a somersault over his rider, landing his whole half-ton mass upside down with the saddle-tree and his withers crushing the rib cage of the man beneath. The horse fell at the peak of his forward-to-win acceleration and crashed down at thirty or more miles an hour. Winded, he lay across the jockey for inert moments, then rocked back and forwards vigorously in his struggle to rise again to his feet. The fall and its aftermath looked truly terrible from where I watched on the stands. The roar of welcome for a favourite racing home to a popular win was hushed to a gasp, to cries, to an endless anxious murmur. The actual winner passed the post without his due cheers and thousand pairs of binoculars focused on the unmoving black and white chevrons flat on the green December grass. The racecourse doctor, though instantly attending him from his following car, couldn't prevent the fast gathering group of paramedics and media people from realising that Martin Stukely, though still semi-conscious, was dying before their eyes. They glimpsed the blood sliding frothily out of the jockey's moth, choking him as the sharp ends of broken ribs tore his lungs apart. They described it, cough by groan, in their news reports. The doctor and paramedics loaded martin just alive into the waiting ambulance and as they set off to the hospital they worked desperately with transfusions and oxygen, but quietly, before the journey ended, the jockey lost his race. Priam, not normally a man of emotion, wept without shame as later he collected Martin's belongings, including his car keys, from the changing rooms. Sniffing, blowing his nose, and accompanied by Lloyd Baxter who looked annoyed rather than grief-stricken, Priam Jones offered to return me to my place of business in Broadway, though not to my. Seller Inventory # 0925T680440
Book Description Michael Joseph. Hardcover. Condition: New. 0718144538 New Condition. Seller Inventory # NEW7.0281248