How far can you get from the world of horse racing and still be the doyen of the equine thriller? Francis’s latest hero doesn’t get any closer to the winner’s circle than glass-blowing, but that’s close enough for plenty of excitement.
Minutes after his friend Martin Stukely is killed under his eyes at the last hurdle of a steeplechase, Gerard Logan gets a package from Eddie Payne, Martin’s valet, that Eddie insists Martin had meant for him. Inside is nothing but an unlabeled videotape. But it must be a doozy, because before Gerard has a chance to play it back, it’s stolen from his glassworks storefront, along with a parcel of money ready for the bank, by a cherubic white-bearded gent. In no time at all, Francis (Second Wind, 1999, etc.) buries the obvious questions—who was the thief racehorse owner Lloyd Baxter spotted just as he was being carried off by an epileptic seizure, and what made the video so valuable?—beneath an avalanche of even more puzzling riddles. Why would a gang of ruffians break into Martin’s house, knocking out his family, to steal every video in sight, then return to give Gerard’s place the same treatment and threaten him with torture if he won’t give up the tape? Why won’t Eddie’s daughter Rose Robins, who obviously knows who gave the original video to Martin, tell Gerard who it was? Who is the mysterious assailant who nearly succeeds in breaking the wrists that Gerard’s livelihood depends on? How long will it be before Detective Constable Catherine Dodd sheds her maidenly modesty and her motorcycle leathers for Gerard’s embraces? And is there anybody in the county who isn’t entangled in this web of conspiracy?
So many crooks and crimes this time that you’ll need a racing form to sort them out. But Francis, though well below his best form, makes glass-blowing as fascinating and dangerous as steeplechasing.