Monday, 18 October 2010

#70 Crossfire, by Dick Francis & Felix Francis (Penguin Group)

Readers may recall that in the dim and distant past – OK, February – I commented on the death of Dick Francis, whose horse-racing books I greatly enjoyed as I was growing up. Unfortunately, as he got older, and following the death of his wife, who reportedly contributed a great deal to his novels, the quality of his books diminished, so it was with some trepidation I approached his final work, Crossfire.

Thankfully, there was little reason to be fearful. It’s far from a Francis classic, but it’s certainly not all bad, and there is enough to keep most readers entertained, even if much of it is incredibly far-fetched.

As is customary in Francis’ books, we’ve got a character with a ‘special’ background, and, sadly, in this day and age, it’s unsurprising to find he is a soldier. And a seriously injured soldier at that. The book is dedicated to ‘grandson and son Williams Francis’, a Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps, so it’s clear the authors didn’t have to travel far to do their research.

The soldier in question returns to his mother’s prestigious stables to discover that she’s being blackmailed, and pretty soon he’s up to eyes in various schemes, plots, tax fiddles and, of course, a beautiful women.

Fans of Francis will see a lot of private detective Sid Halley, one of Francis’ best characters, in Crossfire’s Tom Forsyth. For Halley’s amputated hand, Forsyth is missing a foot, and both endure plenty of pain, are threatened and imprisoned, and show no hesitation in resorting to violence en route to resolving their personal conflict.

Unfortunately, the plot is more nag than thoroughbred, but it retains enough interest to keep you turning the pages, and it’s by no means a bad way for the Francis legacy to bow out.

So, rating time:

#70 Crossfire, by Dick Francis & Felix Francis (Penguin Group) - 6/10

Next up: The New Confessions, by William Boyd (Penguin Group)

  • Click here for the full list of books so far, and their rating
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