The late Dick Francis’s 44th, and last, canter around the track echoes several of his greatest hits.
Capt. Tom Forsyth has returned from service in Afghanistan without his right foot. Since the Army’s been his only home for half a lifetime, he has nowhere to retreat but the home of his thrice-married mother, the doyenne of British racehorse trainers. Tom’s rocky reunion with Josephine (née Jane) Kauri is rendered even more difficult by his suspicion that her charges’ recent string of high-profile losses is more than bad luck, and his discovery that she’s being blackmailed by someone who’s bleeding her white even as he’s forcing her to sabotage her horses, landing her in even deeper legal troubles than the ones that first made her vulnerable to extortion. With no hope of calling on the police, Tom relies on his knowledge of military tactics to force the blackmailer to show his hand. Not surprisingly, his aggressive moves against the unknown enemy quickly get him noticed and neutralized. Even after he escapes his kidnapper, he’ll have his hands full picking him from a field of likely-looking prospects.
Tom’s missing leg echoes ex-jockey Sid Halley’s damaged hand (Under Orders, 2006, etc.), and his captivity recalls Rob Finn’s ordeal in Nerve (1964). Do these signs of the Francis formula—loner hero, dysfunctional family, oversexed female, physical torture and, of course, horseracing—mean that his son Felix, who’s partnered with him in his last four outings, will carry on the beloved franchise alone?