The father-and-son Francis team (Silks, 2008, etc.) turn their attention to the most reviled members of the horse-racing fraternity: on-site bookmakers.
“My clients were never my friends,” wryly observes Ned Talbot. Of course they aren’t, since in the zero-sum game of bookmaking, Ned’s earnings depend on their losses. Now someone is changing the rules of that game. Luca Mandini, Ned’s assistant, reports that Internet and mobile-phone connections have gone down all over Ascot during crucial minutes when bookmakers have tried to lay off bets against favorites in order to reduce the money they’ll have to pay out. More urgently, a stranger who identifies himself as Ned’s father—a man his grandparents told him was killed in a car crash 36 years ago—is killed for good, stabbed to death in front of Ned’s eyes an hour after they meet. Peter Talbot leaves his newfound son a disturbing legacy. A rucksack Ned recovers from his father’s hotel room is hotly pursued by several unsavory and violent characters. Peter’s return from Australia reopens painful questions about the death of his wife—questions whose answers are locked in the Alzheimer’s-stricken brain of Ned’s aged Nanna. Ned worries that telling his wife Sophia about these latest developments may produce a crisis in her bipolar disorder and condemn her to endless incarceration in the hospital. Meanwhile, a major bookmaker backed by a pair of bullyboys is bent on driving Ned out of business.
A blissfully satisfying blend of suspense, revenge and horse-racing info in a multilayered mystery that’s presumably Felix Francis’s distinctive contribution to his father’s legendary series.