A horse is hijacked and held for ransom and a reporter is hired to get to the bottom of things, as the race to supplant Dick Francis continues.
Handsome, early-’30s, bachelor Ben Copperfield (Deadfall, Mar. 2005, etc.) makes enough of a living as a freelance reporter to rent a pleasant cottage with all the mod cons, keep up a big SUV and carry on a romance with lovely live-in girlfriend Lisa, a tour guide for rich Americans. Ben’s specialty as a writer is the horse world. He was practically born on a horse. Mom and Dad, now divorced, are horse people, and half-brother Mikey seems to have a future as a jockey. One of the mysteries in this not particularly challenging turf-thriller is Ben’s borderline phobic aversion to horses. It’s a neurosis that will plague him from the moment young Mikey calls to say that he’s been innocently but alarmingly involved in the kidnapping of Cajun King, favorite for upcoming premier steeplechase event, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The missing horse is owned by exceptionally unpleasant trainer, the nouveau riche Eddie Truman, a man with an unsavory past and a disastrously dysfunctional family. Truman hires Ben to investigate the crime while keeping it out of the news, a task that must be juggled with Ben’s earlier assignment to cover the British debut of a Hungarian equine circus whose riders he has come to admire. Flirting with Truman’s younger daughter Fliss, dodging glowers from older daughter Helen, whose husband is nearly as nasty as Truman, exchanging blows with rabid animal activists, and missing assignations with Lisa, Ben finds that his two writing assignments seem to be moving towards a merger. He further finds it necessary to confront his fears and, with the help of the Hungarians, get himself back on a horse.
Just a few critical degrees hotter than tepid, and the sex is offstage. Safe thrills for the easily shocked.