Continuing his slow emergence from his father’s shadow, Francis (Dick Francis’s Damage, 2014, etc.) packs his very English hero off on a secret mission to America, with mixed results.
Tony Andretti, the deputy director of the Federal Anti-Corruption in Sports Agency, is convinced something’s rotten in the state of New York. But his earlier investigation of Belmont trainer Adam Mitchell, whom he suspected of illegal doping, went so badly awry that he’s convinced FACSA itself harbors a mole. So he asks Jefferson Hinkley, of the British Horseracing Association’s Integrity Service, to go undercover, posing as a visitor looking to pick up tips from the Americans he admires while he secretly does exactly the opposite. Although he’s not eager to follow in the footsteps of Jason Connor, the Sports Illustrated reporter who died suddenly after agreeing to help Tony in the earlier case, Jeff is intrigued by the prospect of witnessing American horse racing’s Triple Crown—the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes—up close while he casts a cold eye on the government agency charged with keeping these starry events legit. His visit to America gives Jeff many opportunities to compare American and British racing customs, to the invariable advantage of the latter, before a second anti-doping raid, this one against Churchill Downs trainer Hayden Ryder, goes disastrously wrong, leaving Jeff to bid farewell to the basically interchangeable colleagues/suspects in FACSA’s Racing section and settle into a secondary assignment posing as a groom in the stables of George Raworth. Both cases are at length wound up, neither one compellingly.
American readers willing to be lectured about the many ways British racing is better will be rewarded by some serviceable, if labored, sleuthing, a good deal of information about the sport, and a bittersweet ending that’s the best thing here.