Francis’ latest attempt to find a new approach to skulduggery in the world of horse racing revolves around a hero who’d rather be anywhere else than solving a surprisingly old-fashioned whodunit.
“I know nothing about horse racing,” Harrison Foster announces on Page 1. But that doesn’t matter to Sheikh Ahmed Karim bin Mohamed Al Hamadi, a client of Simpson White Consultancy, the crisis-management firm Harry works for. A fire at Newmarket’s Castleton House Stables has taken the lives of seven horses, one of them Prince of Troy, the prohibitive Derby favorite Sheikh Karim had owned, and the wealthy client wants to learn everything he can about how the fire got started. Ignoring his asthma and his antipathy to horses, Harry travels to Newmarket, where he interviews Oliver Chadwick, the patriarch of Castleton House, and his sons, Declan and Tony. Chadwick’s only daughter, Zoe, isn’t available to speak to Harry because, as it turns out, she was also in the stable that caught fire. Bypassing cautious Superintendent Bennett and DCI Eastwood, who want to tread softly till they’ve ruled out the possibility that the blaze was accidental, Harry resolves to dig deeper, and a good thing too. Soon enough, Declan, arrested for Zoe’s murder, engages a dazed Harry as his attorney, and his wife, Arabella, hangs herself after leaving behind a cryptic note: “It will all come out. I can’t stand the shame.” The adventures that await Harry range from his sudden romance with auctioneer Kate Williams to the fulfillment of his worst nightmare when he’s locked in a dark barn with a very unstable horse before he plucks the culprit from the depths of the deeply dysfunctional Chadwick family.
Even if all the leading suspects are so despicable that it’s hard to generate much interest in which of them is guilty of murder, Francis (Pulse, 2017, etc.) continues to work unexpected and welcome changes on the racing franchise he inherited from his father.