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Once upon a time I thrilled to Dick Francis' tortured heroes and the various beastly ways the denizens of the racing world found to deal with each other, but I was a teenager then. I haven't read (or reread) one for years. This is written by Dick with his son Felix, apparently the first in which Felix has had a hand in the writing, although he is credited with research involvement in previous books. The basic plot involves a chef catering for racing clients who falls in love with a Viola player. At best a workmanlike effort, it delivers fights, deaths and a little romance strung together on a standard plot involving drug-dealing villains falling out, all in accordance with the well-known Francis recipe.

Overall I found the book unsatisfactory. The prose is dull, the characters barely sketched, and the plot underdeveloped. There is very little detail from of the racing industry, and the material relating to food and music frequently reads as if copied straight from the encyclopedia.
Even considered as an apprentice effort in a project to hand the Francis franchise on to a new generation this book does not convince. Contrasted to the memory of Dick's earlier books it doesn't stand a chance. Avoid.

There are two other posts to be written here, which I may not get round to, so, briefly:

This book shares something with the Maeve Binchy, Heart and Soul, which was also picked up at my parents' home this Christmas. Both were read, at least in part, to continue sharing reading conversations at home with my birth family. I am pleased to be able to report that this sharing is not limited to poor, late books by authors who have known better days.

There are a number of current cases of famous writers taking up collaboration with their children to continue the franchise that made the writer famous. Anne McCaffrey with Todd for Pern and Frank Herbert with Brian for Dune are other cases in point. It's obviously a career opportunity for young writers, but what kind of career? I am ambivalent about inheriting my grandparents' furniture, and look forward inheriting from to my parents with apprehension. Thank God I didn't have to inherit the insides of their heads too.

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Caroline M

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