Felix Francis has now picked up the writing mantle of his father and his mother. Apparently, as his mother assisted his father in writing the novels, Felix assisted his father after his mother’s death. GAMBLE is the first book that bears only Felix’s name.
I am pretty certain that I have read all the mysteries that Dick Francis and family have written. The books have likable heroes who have a connection to horse racing in some capacity or another. That gives the authors the opportunity to create a world in each book that they know intimately. They know it so well that the world of thoroughbreds and the humans who take care of them becomes real to readers who know absolutely nothing about the animals or the gambling that arises from the swiftness of their four feet. The closest I come to the racing world, and horses, is watching the Kentucky Derby each year with my niece and her daughters. The girls arrive wearing fancy dresses and hats for our “ladies’ lunch” and tea party. Generally, by the time the race starts, they are bored and have moved on to other things.
Perhaps it is because I know so little about the world of Dick Francis and his family that I enjoy the books so much. There is always mayhem and threats and the hero generally gets beaten by thugs by the middle of the book. There is usually understated romance between the hero and a woman who is also part of the racing world but, in all the books, far more attention is payed to horse flesh than to the human variety.
Francis found the key that prevents his books from becoming stale. A jockey who rode exclusively for the Queen Mother for a number of years, he was fascinated by the occupations held by people outside the racing world. His protagonists include a George Clooney level actor, a glassblower, an architect, an inventor of toys, a meteorologist, and a chef. The research into the careers of the heroes is meticulous so the reader learns about interesting occupations and professions and horses and horse racing while enjoying a good mystery, too.
The latest book, GAMBLE, is written by Felix Francis although his father’s name is also on the cover. Nicholas Foxton was a world class jockey until his career was ended by a fall that broke his neck. Nick has been warned that another fall or an accident would likely kill him so he had to give up the racing life and take on the role of independent financial adviser, a job thathas made him far wealthier than he would be if he had continued to race.
A day at the races had to suffice until the day “I was standing right next to Herb Kovak when he was murdered. Executed would have been a better word. Shot three times from close range, twice in the heart and once in the face, he was almost certainly dead before he hit the ground, and definitely before the gunman had turned away and disappeared into the Grand National race-day crowd.” Herb and Nick were colleagues. They had joined the investment firm of Lyall and Black in the City of London on the same day.
Nick becomes curious about the files Herb was working on just before he died. When Nick comes across information about a billion euro swindle, he realizes he now has the information that got Herb killed.
As with all books from the Francis stable, GAMBLE is worth reading. It is entertaining, teaches a bit about a few things, and ends with the hero still in one piece. Obviously, they have found a winning formula (in the best sense). There are forty-six books available and after reading one, the reader is likely to aim to read them all.