What new angles on horse racing are left for veteran Francis (Dead Heat, 2007, etc.) to explore? His latest hero is a barrister who’s also a passionate amateur steeplechase jockey.
It’s no wonder that Geoffrey Mason’s fellow jockeys call him Perry, for he makes his living in the courtroom, not on the track. By any measure his least satisfying case is his unsuccessful defense of Julian Trent, accused of savaging a family with a baseball bat. Even though Trent is clearly guilty, his conviction is reversed on appeal, and as soon as he’s released he sets about making his former counsel’s life miserable—threatening him, trashing his home, attacking him physically. Even worse, a fortuitous telephone caller demands that the very junior Mason assume the defense of Steve Mitchell, the champion jockey accused of killing his longtime rival Scot Barlow—and that he lose the case, which looks easy enough to do in light of the evidence. To underline Mason’s vulnerability, his shadowy enemy sends him photographs of his aging father and his new romantic interest, whom he clearly intends to harm if Mason doesn’t play along. And it may be harder than Mason thought to cooperate, since it gradually becomes clear that Mitchell may not be guilty after all.
Despite Mason’s avocation, the outsider’s view of racing takes a back seat to the courtroom sequences. Partnering for the second time with his son, Francis produces a whodunit more accomplished than ever but less distinctive than the work that put him on the map.