Legendary racing-mystery master Francis (Shattered, 2000, etc.) partners with son Felix to bring mayhem of many kinds to the Newmarket track.
After a night he’s spent huddled over his toilet sick as a dog, it’s no consolation to restaurateur Max Moreton to learn that he hasn’t been alone. Virtually everyone at the party at the Hay Net, his racing-themed restaurant, has become ill. Soon enough, longtime patrons begin to cancel their reservations; the Cambridge County Council seals his kitchen; and violist Caroline Aston, whose quartet had played at the party, announces her plans to sue him. By that time, however, Max already has bigger problems. A bomb planted in the stands at the 2,000 Guineas, a high-profile race run the day after the debacle at the Hay Net, has killed 19 and sent dozens more to the hospital. Are the two incidents connected, and if so, how? It doesn’t take Max long to satisfy himself that his meal was sabotaged by the unboiled kidney beans someone introduced into a sauce that didn’t call for them. But why would anyone seek to poison 250 diners the night before detonating a bomb? Working with Caroline Aston, who’s morphed rapidly and improbably from legal antagonist to lover, Max focuses on the people who attended the party but not the race. Soon enough, some conscientious sleuthing and lucky breaks reveal an ingenious smuggling plot Max is determined to end—that is, if the powers arrayed against him don’t succeed in killing him first by means of arson or a car crash or a polo mallet or another bomb.
Clunky expository dialogue tells you more than you probably want to know about food preparation and concertizing. But the mystery is engaging, and durable Max is a worthy addition to Francis’s gallery of racetrack detectives.