The late Dick Francis’ son and sometime collaborator follows his first solo canter (Dick Francis’s Gamble, 2011) with more of the same.
Once upon a time, Mark Shillingford and his twin sister, Clare, both wanted to be jockeys. Clare succeeded, Mark didn’t. But since he still follows his twin’s races both personally and professionally, as an announcer and television interviewer, he’s on hand to call a race Clare deliberately loses, though no one else notices. Over a tense dinner afterward, Clare doesn’t deny her guilt, passing her behavior off as no big deal, something she’s done perhaps four or five times before. Several hours later, she’s dead after a header from the balcony of a London hotel. Did she fall, or was she pushed—and what was she doing in Park Lane in the first place when she’d told Mark she was going straight to her Newmarket home? Cold-shouldered by both the police, who blandly assume from a note she left behind that Clare killed herself, and his domineering father, whose only reaction to his youngest daughter’s death is angry gloom, Mark resolves to get to the bottom of the mystery. It’s just as well that he’s developing a new interest, since his married lover is about to drop him and his job is threatened by a hungry rival. Mark’s inquiries will bring him up against a spiteful racing correspondent, several questionable trainers, a possible new romance and an ingenious serial blackmailer who seems intent on continuing his extortion demands from beyond the grave.
The usual pleasures of Francis father and son, from inside dope about announcing races to carefully controlled bursts of physical violence, fly by with all the speed of a promising filly on her second one-mile run.