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DECIDER by Dick Francis

DECIDER

By Dick Francis

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1993
ISBN: 0425222705
Publisher: Putnam

Francis's newest suspenser (his 32nd) is typical not only in its racetrack setting, but in its doubling of the hero's mildly dysfunctional family (he and his diffident wife are held together only by their brood of six sons) with another family of deep-dyed villains. Because his mother Madeline was once married into the fractious Stratton family, owners of the Stratton Park racecourse, architect/ builder Lee Morris, a restorer of ruined houses, owns a small number of voting shares in the course. His long-standing revulsion from Madeline's wife-beating first husband Keith Stratton has kept him away from the family--especially from his half-sister Hannah, a child of marital rape--and, despite the pleas of course manager Roger Gardner, he intends to keep his distance even when Keith's father, Lord William Stratton, dies. But an invitation to a meeting of the shareholders leads to an unexpected request from matriarchal Marjorie Binsham, William's sister--to look into the question of whether the outdated grandstands really need replacing--and while he's poking around along with his five oldest sons, an explosion rocks the stands and nearly kills him. Sabotage, of course; but was the culprit habitual animal- rights picketer Harold Quest, or one of the Stratton heirs--Keith himself, his despised twin Conrad (the new head of the family), their ineffectual brother Ivan--or one of their children--spiteful unwed mother Hannah, sullen jockey Rebecca, insouciant Dart, or troublemaking Forsyth? Francis's biggest coup here is his success in delineating shades and varieties of wickedness in the superbly monstrous Strattons. Despite an unconvincing hint of May-December romance for his fatalistic hero, this is the most elaborate and satisfying of his recent books--a winner from the starting gate to the last hurdle.