Saturday, 25 May 2013

DICK FRANCIS - DEAD CERT


Synopsis/blurb...........

Three jockeys were warned not to win their races, someone wanted good riders turned into also-rans. Bill died when the sure-footed Admiral fell, Joe was scared rotten, and Alan York became the prime target of a vicious gang. But Alan wanted revenge, and to hell with the danger.

 

I have seen and heard of this author for many years before finally deciding to give him a try. I read and enjoyed Forfeit last month and having picked up a few of his books recently decided to try his first published novel from 1962 next.

At 180-odd pages long it was a fairly quick read. Sufficient length for the author to develop his characters into more than stick people, but not over-long like so many of the books published today.

Alan York is our main man here. Rhodesian by birth, Alan’s a part-time amateur jockey in addition to looking after his father’s business from London a couple of days a week. Alan is trailing his best friend Bill Davidson during a steeplechase race, when disaster strikes the leading horse and jockey. Davidson suffers a bad fall, incurring fatal injuries after his horse landed on him. York having witnessed the accident is sufficiently disturbed to re-visit the fence where the incident took place.  Hidden in the fence is a coil of wire which has been used to bring Davidson and Admiral, his odds-on favourite mount down. Unable to attract assistance that evening, York returns to the course the next day with a policeman in tow, but the evidence has disappeared.  

After the inquest where York’s insistence of foul-play is dismissed and an accidental verdict returned, Alan decides to investigate who is responsible for his friend’s death.  Whilst talking in the weighing room to other jockeys, it’s apparent that someone is trying to stop several nailed-on horses from winning their races in order to profit. As the plot quickly unfolds, Alan is threatened and warned off by the gang responsible for the race-fixing, which is in addition to a protection racket they have been operating in Brighton. There’s a bit of a love interest introduced, which also links in to the eventual unmasking of the head honcho controlling the criminal gang.

Short, sharp, concise, with a few twists and turns before the identity of the culprit was revealed.It’s unlikely that I will find myself thinking about this book much in the weeks ahead, but for all that I really enjoyed it. A fairly straight-forward thriller-cum-crime-novel (can someone explain to me the difference?), interesting and likeable main character, believable plot and all ends properly tied-up at the conclusion.  Verdict - nothing to complain about.

4 from 5

I acquired my omnibus edition of 3 early Dick Francis books a month or two ago from a seller on e-bay.

  

 

6 comments:

  1. Col - Glad you liked this one. In my opinion, Dick Francis was a master at getting you to care about the characters. That plus the really interesting stories and the solid pacing make his stories memorable - well, to me anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Margot, you're right, he definitely can write with a pace that's constant throughout, whilst developing his characters at the same time. Another one next month, I reckon.

      Delete
  2. I read a lot of these many years ago. Most of them I really liked. He tells a story really well. I have quite a few I inherited from my mother-in-law that I can reread if I get in the mood.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm enjoying his books and kind of puzzling over why I ignored him for so many years, still better late than never!

      Delete
  3. I guess I generally think of 'crime/mystery' novels as involving an investigation or procedural element with a police or private detective as the central driver of events whereas a thriller tends not to have this and is more generally told from the point of view of the person experiencing events...but there are so many overlaps these days and, especially with crime fiction I think the definition is a lot looser/broader than it once was with the advent of whydunnits and other variations on a theme.

    Great question.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bernadette, thanks for the comment. I suppose the boundaries are definitely more blurred these days.
      I suppose the only real question that matters is whether the author can write well enough to allow the reader to suspend belief and get sucked into the story. The labelling doesn't matter too much.

      Delete