Every Dick Francis steeplechase puts a persecuted narrator-hero through some sort of physical ordeal; this one puts likable Roland Britten through what reads--and it's nonstop reading as always--like one long torture. Roland's an accountant specializing in horseracing clients, but he's also a gifted amateur jockey--and, right after an astonishing Gold Cup win, he's kidnapped, waking up to find himself trussed and stashed in the lower bunk of a small cabin cruiser drifting in the western Mediterranean. He eventually escapes and gets back to London (aided by a gutsy spinster whom he graciously deflowers on request)--only to be grabbed again and sealed up in a truck. Obviously, someone's intent on keeping Roland out of circulation. Is it the race-fixing manager of the horse he rides? Or an embezzling client? Or. . . ? More zippy ordeals ensue before Roland learns the dispiriting truth, and only a few spoilsports will look past the breathtaking narrative dash to notice that--notwithstanding the nifty relationship between Roland and spinster Hilary--this is not only the fastest Francis ever, but perhaps the emptiest.