Friday 5 April 2013



Bert Checkov was a Fleet Street racing correspondent with an unnerving talent for tipping non-starters for big races. But the advice he gave James Tyrone, a few minutes before he fell to his death, was of a completely different nature... Not one for the quiet life, Tyrone has a bloodhound's nose for trouble and pretty soon he's caught up in an increasingly dangerous game. One that threatens him, his crippled wife and the credibility of the racing world. Blowing the roof off is the number one policy of The Sunday Blaze ... and Tyrone has stumbled upon explosive material. 'A superb chiller and killer' New York Times Book Review

My first introduction to Dick Francis and his thrillers set in the world of horse racing. This offering was the recipient of the 1970 Edgar Award for best novel, with the author having been a runner-up in each of the 3 preceding years.

The book was quite entertaining. Tyrone was likeable and sympathetic particularly in his efforts to care for his stricken wife and in the sacrifices he had made through the years since she contracted polio. At the same time he was still quite driven in his need to delve deeper into the mystery of his friend, Bert Checkov’s last words in the moments before he died. That this investigation would put him and his wife in danger was a consideration, particularly as the pieces of the puzzle unfolded, but not a sufficient deterrent to his enquiries.  Tyrone’s need to find physical release in the company of a woman, whilst remaining loyal and faithful to his invalid wife, was understandable if slightly disappointing. Still, heroes have warts and failings just like the rest of us.

I enjoyed the book for the aspects of community shown in the horse racing environment, with nearly everyone knowing everyone else. Francis realistically portrayed life in the lower echelons of the industry and glamorous it certainly isn’t. As a former champion jockey and the unfortunate rider of the Queen’s Mother’s ill-fated mount Devon Loch in the Grand National, you would expect him to know the ins and outs of racing. Having the skill and ability to transfer that experience and knowledge into written form shows a different quality. I’ll read more of Francis and his horse racing thrillers in the future.

4 from 5

I acquired my copy after swapping a book on the Readitswap it website.


  1. Col - I'm very glad that you liked this one. Dick Francis was so very talented I think. If you get the chance, I can also recommend his Sid Halley novels; they're quite good too.

    1. Margot, thanks for the heads-up, I have a couple of them primed and ready to go.