Champion jump jockey Harry Radcliffe’s fourth time around the track can’t quite disentangle itself from echoes of his first three (Dead Reckoning, 2017, etc.).
Any illusions Harry had that horsebox driver John Dunston committed suicide are dashed by a letter Dunston’s solicitor, Philip Caxton, portentously delivers to him in which Dunston announces that he expects to be murdered just like Frank, the son who was killed in prison, and that he’s left a parcel with Caxton containing “the only bit of proof,” which he invites Harry to pick up. Harry has five races the next day, but he arranges a rush trip to the solicitor’s office in York to take possession of a sealed package the size of a shoebox. Instead of opening it, however, he hides it in a bag of cat litter, runs off to answer his estranged wife Annabel’s plea to surrender the letter to an anonymous caller who threatens violence to her lover, Sir Jeffrey, meets the caller in an inconclusive standoff, rides so successfully for Lady Willamina Branshawe that he unseats her resentful regular jockey, Duncan Rawlson, accepts an invitation to bring along his girlfriend, flower shop owner Georgia, to join Lady Branshawe and her friend trainer Tally Hunter on her private plane to St. Moritz to take in some skijoring, and learns how much the depths of his continuing attachment to Annabel put Georgia off. When Harry finally does get around to opening that parcel (remember?), its contents, far from solving the mystery, merely set him on a new round of inquiries. Not to worry, because, as Annabel assures him, Harry’s hunches are so accurate that they make him a much better detective than Ian Rankin’s Inspector John Rebus. As if.
The racing sequences are excellent, the mystery-mongering tangled, the endless aftershocks of the hero’s earlier cases best born with fortitude and a stiff upper lip.