Dick Francis, Wild Horses (Jove, 1994)
[originally posted 19Feb2002]
Wild Horses is Dick Francis on top of his game. It stands as one of the highlights of the long and somewhat distinguished career of one of Britain’s best-known mystery novelists.
The tale is that of Thomas Lyon, ex-jumps jockey and presently filmmaker. He’s been signed on to make a movie based on a novel based on a twenty-six-year-old police case regarding the alleged suicide of a trainer’s wife. In the small British racing world, Lyon and the trainer are connected through various channels, and Lyon, along with the film’s reluctant producer O’Hara, idly speculate that maybe, in the making of the film, they might actually solve the case. As all this is going on, an old friend of Lyon’s dies, leaving Lyon all of his racing-related books and ephemera. A number of others want to get their hands on this material, and will stop at nothing to do so, including viciously beating the man’s elderly sister. Lyon realizes that everything’s tied in a lot closer than it seems, and the chase is on.
Wild Horses has a readability factor that some of Francis’ less consistent books lack. He puts everything in front of the reader in a non-nonsense fashion, adding enough deception to keep the reader wondering what’s a clue and what’s a falsity, throws in suspects by the score, and lets Lyon go on about making his movie. (Perhaps the fact that the sleuth not only has another job, but actually pays attention to it as the mystery is going on, is one of the book’s strongest points; too often it seems amateur detectives suddenly find themselves with more than enough hours in the day when things get underway.) Them’s good reads, folks!
A must for any fan of Francis (or any other writer of racing mysteries), and a good intro to him for other mystery readers who haven’t yet discovered his work. ****