Come to Grief

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Back around 1998 or so, I put the then-current list of Dick Francis novels on my to-be-read list. I'd read many of them; I wanted to make sure I'd read them all. This one features Francis's ex-jockey turned investigator, Sid Halley.

It's kind of a mystery, although we know the perpetrator practically from page one: Sid has accused a famous, beloved TV personality—think a male, British Oprah—of a horrifying crime. This brings down torrents of scorn and abuse on Sid's head. Things aren't improved when the accused's mother commits suicide (also page one) and the accused's father assaults Sid outside his house (page three).

What's going on? The story catches us up via flashback: a family with a cancer-stricken daughter has hired Sid to discover the perpetrator of an atrocity committed against the daughter's beloved horse. Who could do such a thing? Sid finds out, to his eventual peril.

The book reminded me of how much I miss Dick Francis. Sid Halley is a wonderfully-drawn hero/narrator: decent, modest, somewhat self-doubting. But when it counts, his core character is "tungsten carbide" (as one of his antagonists observes). I saw him here as Brendan Coyle, the guy who played Bates on Downton Abbey—the character's right, but unfortunately Coyle's a little too chubby to be believable as an ex-jockey.