Gamble

[Amazon Link]

Amazon points out that I bought this back in late 2011. They don't add, but could: You sure took your sweet time getting around to reading it. It's on the Kindle, and Amazon Knows All.

You'll note from the cover that the late Dick Francis's name is much bigger than that of the actual author, his son Felix. Dick died in 2010, and this is Felix's first solo effort. (They shared authorial billing on four books.)

I tend to be a sucker for these efforts to keep a beloved author's name alive. (Examples: Joe Gores doing Dashiell Hammett; Ace Atkins doing Robert B. Parker; Benjamin Black doing Raymond Chandler; Spider Robinson doing Robert A. Heinlein.) You can view it as a cold-blooded dollar grab from gullible fans, and I suppose there's something to that. But I have to admit: Felix Francis does a very good job here. If I didn't know better, I'd say: yup, this is Dick Francis.

As Francis novels tend to do, this starts off with a bang. A literal one, in this case: an unknown assassin guns down Herb Kovack at the racetrack as he's strolling to the stands with co-worker (and ex-jockey) Nick Foxton. Nick, the story's narrator, is naturally horrified. He and the late Herb have perfectly boring jobs as investment advisors in a respectable firm. What could possibly have been the motive?

Well, we find out eventually. Nick is caught up in the investigation, but can't provide much help to the cops, other than finding a vaguely threatening note in the deceased's coat pocket. He's nonplussed to discover that Herb's will has named him to be both beneficiary and executor, which leads him to uncover and delve into Herb's mysterious financial dealings. And a number of other things are going on: Nick's girlfriend is acting oddly secretive; there are indications that the firm's investment in a Bulgarian light bulb factory may not be on the up-and-up; a female trainer Nick used to work for is unexpectedly amorous; a jockey whose portfolio Nick manages suddenly demands an immediate cash-out, and soon afterward becomes involved in a nasty hit-and-run accident. Could any of these things be connected?

Bottom line: Felix is doing a fine job writing "Dick Francis" novels. Sympathetic and interesting heroes, twisty plots, inventive action. So I'll be reading some more.


Last Modified 2014-12-10 12:22 PM EDT