I'm working my way through older Dick Francis novels (while also trying to keep up with his Designated Successor, son Felix). I thought I'd read them all at least once, but I was surprised to find that I seemed to have missed this 1993 one.
Or maybe I forgot. But I think I would have remembered. Right?
I got a "Used - Very Good" copy of the paperback from an Amazon seller. It had stickers that told of its travels to Pun Salad Manor: a remainder table at some Barnes & Noble; a stop at a Goodwill store. And finally, a UPS ride from Plainfield, Indiana to here. I feel it should be retired to a good home.
The hero here is Lee Morris, a builder/architect specializing in the restoration of ruins into attractive and liveable abodes. He's a family man, with six sturdy sons and a wife from whom he's growing increasingly distant. He needs to hustle to make ends meet, and it doesn't help that he's decided to keep his latest project as a place to live instead of selling it. But he's the usual Francis hero: professionally ultra-competent, personally a mensch, but still recognizably human.
Into this situation is dropped the violent turmoil of the Stratton family; Lee's mother was previously married to one of its least appealing members, and Lee feels both obligated and reluctant to respond to a situation caused by the recent death of the family head, Lord Stratton. At issue is the fate of Stratton Park racecourse: some Strattons want to sell, some want to renovate, some want to maintain the status quo. And it just so happens that Lee controls some of the voting shares in the track.
Lee winds up taking the five oldest sons for what he hopes will be a quick resolution, after which he can forget about the Strattons altogether. He turns out to be wrong, wrong, wrong: his efforts put (mostly) him and (occasionally) his kids in peril. Since this is a Dick Francis book, Lee handles the situation with courage, stoicism, perception, and intelligence.