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Even Money

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Ned Talbot is a small-time bookmaker on the edge of giving it all up when his world is turned upside down by a man who claims to be his father, long thought dead. And when the mysterious stranger is murdered, Ned feels compelled to find out exactly what is going on. But the more he discovers, the longer the odds become for his survival.


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Ned Talbot is a small-time bookmaker on the edge of giving it all up when his world is turned upside down by a man who claims to be his father, long thought dead. And when the mysterious stranger is murdered, Ned feels compelled to find out exactly what is going on. But the more he discovers, the longer the odds become for his survival.

30 review for Even Money

  1. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    One can say of "Even Money" that it may not be up to the standards of "Nerve" or "Forfeit" or "Whip Hand" or "Reflex," but it's still a Dick Francis thriller. The key elements are all here: the horseracing milieu, the damaged hero, various moral dilemmas, the easygoing first-person narration, at least one scene of brutal violence, the presentation of a lot of information about some romantically arcane subject (e.g., wine, investment banking, photography) and, of course, a more or less happy One can say of "Even Money" that it may not be up to the standards of "Nerve" or "Forfeit" or "Whip Hand" or "Reflex," but it's still a Dick Francis thriller. The key elements are all here: the horseracing milieu, the damaged hero, various moral dilemmas, the easygoing first-person narration, at least one scene of brutal violence, the presentation of a lot of information about some romantically arcane subject (e.g., wine, investment banking, photography) and, of course, a more or less happy ending. However, there's no getting around the fact that Dick Francis is nearly 90. He was born in 1920, piloted Spitfires during World War II for the Royal Air Force and spent the 1950s as one of Britain's leading jockeys, riding horses belonging to the Queen Mother. Only after his early retirement did he turn to writing fiction, starting with "Dead Cert" in 1962. But by producing a book a year up until 2000, Francis firmly established himself as a brand name, the purveyor of reliable, literate entertainment. In particular, his novels have always appealed to women -- and not only because of the horses in them, but also because his heroes are usually quietly attractive, sensitive men in their 30s burdened with guilt or otherwise psychologically wounded. The faint air of melancholy surrounding them adds an aura of almost Byronic romance. Usually, these troubled Dick Francis heroes find themselves caught up in righting an injustice or solving a mystery that affects their lives or the lives of people they care about. In most of his 40 or so novels, Francis does without a recurring character, with one exception: Sid Halley -- a onetime jockey who has lost an arm -- becomes a private investigator in "Odds Against" and is the hero of three subsequent novels, including "Whip Hand" and "Come to Grief," both of which received Edgar awards for best mystery of the year. Through most of his career, Francis relied on the help of his wife, Mary, who performed background research, provided a sounding board for possible plot developments and edited the final text. When she died, Francis stopped writing, apparently forever. But in 2005 he published a new Sid Halley novel called "Under Orders" and then in 2007 produced "Dead Heat," with the help of his younger son Felix. The two again collaborated on "Silks" and now again on "Even Money." Before joining his father in the family business, Felix Francis was an international-class marksman, the leader of expeditions to the Himalayas and the jungles of Borneo and a teacher of physics. The hero of "Even Money" is Ned Talbot, a 37-year-old bookmaker who inherited his grandfather's business. As the novel opens on a depressing day at the Ascot race course, Ned has already suffered more than his share of life's troubles. His parents were killed when he was a baby; his beloved wife, Sophie, has had bipolar disorder diagnosed; his grandmother is gaga in a nursing home; and his electronics-whiz assistant, Luca Mandini, is thinking of quitting. What's more, Ned feels increasingly pressured by the large-scale betting agencies that would dearly love to put him out of business and acquire his pitch position at the tracks. So it's not surprising when the bookmaker, observing a happy couple, says to himself: "I supposed I must have been that happy once." Well, this being a Francis novel, things have only just started to get rough for Ned Talbot. Before Chapter 1 ends, he will learn that his father is actually alive and involved with something deeply shady. By the end of Chapter 2, there will be an assault and a murder. And by the beginning of Chapter 6, Ned will discover a rucksack with a secret compartment tightly packed with 30,000 pounds in cash, a mysterious device that looks like a remote control, some counterfeit horse papers and "a small polythene bag containing what appeared at first to be ten grains of rice, but, on closer examination, were clearly man-made. They looked like frosted glass." Mysterious goings-on at the track are once again at the center of a Dick Francis novel. Some kind of horse-switching scam, perhaps? This rucksack and its contents provide the main narrative engine of "Even Money." But Francis adds two other subplots of nearly equal importance, one focusing on Sophie's fragile mental health, especially when under stress, and the other involving some mysterious goings-on at the track: Lately, just before certain races, all cellphones and computers stop working for five minutes. As one would expect, by the climax of the novel all three plot lines are brought together. Though Ned worries about the hospitalized Sophie, constantly keeps on the lookout for a shifty-eyed, murderous man in a hoodie and increasingly questions what he knows about his own family's past, he never neglects his business. In the course of "Even Money," the Francises present an informal introduction to English bookmaking and horse-betting. Here, for instance, Ned talks about "punters" -- i.e., gamblers: "The most successful are those who know almost every horse in training. And they study the races every day. They learn, over time, which horses run consistently to form and which do not. They discover which horses prefer right-handed tracks and which do better left-handed, which jumpers like long run-ins and which short, and whether they are likely to win uphill finishes or flat ones. They know if a horse runs above or below par on firm or soft ground, and also what weight suits a particular horse and whether to keep away from it in handicaps when it's rated too highly. They know where each horse is trained, if it runs badly after long journeys in a horsevan and even if a particular horse tends to do better than its rivals in sunshine or in rain." And if punters know their horses, the riders and trainers know them even better. The great jockey Lester Piggott "was said to be able to recognize any horse he had ridden even when it was walking away from him in a rainstorm." Yet, despite all its seeming impossibility, Ned gradually realizes that some kind of horse-switching scam must lie behind the mysterious contents of the rucksack. Can Luca's electronics expertise help solve the mystery? While "Even Money" is an agreeable way to pass a few hours, it often feels soft and rather anemic, without real driving force. Nonetheless, the overall tone and sensibility are identifiably Franciscan, and longtime fans will enjoy taking a leisurely canter round a familiar track. But new readers who want to see Dick Francis at his best should pick up one or two of those early novels. They show why Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin, among many others, so admired Francis's writing. After all, as any punter knows, a "Dead Cert" is a much better bet than "Even Money.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Luann

    I wanted to love this. What's not to love about a new Dick Francis, right? But I'm sad to say I only liked it. Our typical Dick Francis hero is there with an interesting profession, family problems, a mystery to puzzle through, and villains to defeat. But for some reason the story never completely pulled me in. I still recommend this for any and all Dick Francis fans, but I have to say that while it's not my least favorite Dick Francis, it also doesn't make my list of favorite Francis mysteries. I wanted to love this. What's not to love about a new Dick Francis, right? But I'm sad to say I only liked it. Our typical Dick Francis hero is there with an interesting profession, family problems, a mystery to puzzle through, and villains to defeat. But for some reason the story never completely pulled me in. I still recommend this for any and all Dick Francis fans, but I have to say that while it's not my least favorite Dick Francis, it also doesn't make my list of favorite Francis mysteries. One thing I did find very interesting were all the references to current technology. Ned Talbot (and Felix Francis, I'm sure) is certainly up-to-date with technology and the Internet. There are references to Google, Google Earth, Facebook, microcoders and RFID (radio-frequency identification), the computerized Hawk-Eye system (in tennis), SIM cards in cell phones, Wi-Fi, and E-FIT (Electronic Facial Identification Technique). There have been several other Dick Francis mysteries with computers, gadgets, and even the Internet, but none of them have been quite so loaded with it as this one.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth (Alaska)

    I think it's been several years since the last time I read Dick Francis. His world of horse racing is so very different than almost anything else I read that it is pure escapism. This is more thriller than mystery. There were a few times when the first person narrator did what I thought was stupid or unthinking. "No, don't!" or "How could you be so dumb?" I thought. There is enough characterization to keep it interesting - more so, perhaps, than I might expect in a novel of this type. The prose I think it's been several years since the last time I read Dick Francis. His world of horse racing is so very different than almost anything else I read that it is pure escapism. This is more thriller than mystery. There were a few times when the first person narrator did what I thought was stupid or unthinking. "No, don't!" or "How could you be so dumb?" I thought. There is enough characterization to keep it interesting - more so, perhaps, than I might expect in a novel of this type. The prose does its job without being complex on the one hand, or boring on the other. If there was any subtlety or hidden meanings anywhere, it was too subtle or hidden for me to notice it. Other readers have said that when the son, Felix Francis, started being a part of the Dick Francis offerings, the quality slipped. I haven't read enough to make comparisons, but this was an enjoyably solid 3-star read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    The third collaboration between bestseller Francis and son Felix (after Silks), a taut crime thriller, features an especially sympathetic hero. Bookmaker Ed Talbot is struggling with his wife's mental illness, even as technology threatens to give the big bookmaking outfits an insurmountable advantage over his small family business. Soon after a man shows up at Ascot and identifies himself as Ed's father, Peter, whom Ed believed long dead, a thug demanding money stabs Peter to death. Ed is in for The third collaboration between bestseller Francis and son Felix (after Silks), a taut crime thriller, features an especially sympathetic hero. Bookmaker Ed Talbot is struggling with his wife's mental illness, even as technology threatens to give the big bookmaking outfits an insurmountable advantage over his small family business. Soon after a man shows up at Ascot and identifies himself as Ed's father, Peter, whom Ed believed long dead, a thug demanding money stabs Peter to death. Ed is in for even more shocks when he learns his father was the prime suspect in his mother's murder—and that Peter's killing, rather than a random act of violence, may be linked to a mysterious electronic device used in some horse-racing fraud. Ed must juggle his amateur investigations into past and present crimes with his demanding family responsibilities. Though some readers may find the ending overly pat, the authors make bookmaking intelligible while easily integrating it into the plot. Overall a decent story, not my favorite, but enough to hold my interest.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dlora

    The Dick/Felix Frances author combo still doesn't have the magic that made me a huge fan of Dick Frances's books, and I'm not quite sure what it is. Even Money is again about the racing environment, delving into the world of the bookies and the punters on the racetrack. Perhaps I was lost because there was an awful lot about bookmakers odds--lots of fractions and numbers that went right over my head even with the help of the chart at the front of the book. It also seemed as if the editor left in The Dick/Felix Frances author combo still doesn't have the magic that made me a huge fan of Dick Frances's books, and I'm not quite sure what it is. Even Money is again about the racing environment, delving into the world of the bookies and the punters on the racetrack. Perhaps I was lost because there was an awful lot about bookmakers odds--lots of fractions and numbers that went right over my head even with the help of the chart at the front of the book. It also seemed as if the editor left in a lot of funny English phrases, which threw me for a loop now and then, that were "Americanized" in the early Francis books. There was murder and intrigue and clever machinations but I didn't find that love of horses that shimmered through Dick Frances's books and made me learn to love horses myself. And perhaps most of all, I just didn't admire and connect with the main character as I have with all of the earlier books. Sigh. I'll still read the Dick/Felix books when they come out, but the love affair is dying.

  6. 5 out of 5

    An Odd1

    "Even Money", yet another Francis racehorse action mystery, may refer to balancing bets for wins and losses to come out ahead. In a dark deserted Ascot car park, third generation bookie Ned is accosted by a stranger who claims to be his long-lost father from Australia, warns him of danger, and dies in his arms from a sudden knife attack. Ned's nerd techie provokes a thug villain. His manic-depressive wife wants to come home from the psych ward. Research is on library microfiche. Masked intruders "Even Money", yet another Francis racehorse action mystery, may refer to balancing bets for wins and losses to come out ahead. In a dark deserted Ascot car park, third generation bookie Ned is accosted by a stranger who claims to be his long-lost father from Australia, warns him of danger, and dies in his arms from a sudden knife attack. Ned's nerd techie provokes a thug villain. His manic-depressive wife wants to come home from the psych ward. Research is on library microfiche. Masked intruders violently demand a knapsack of cash, and a mysterious microcoder. Put everything together and whew, what a thriller. Aside: Finally found http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k57N1S... after initial unsuccessful search for previews of two DVD sets: 1989 starring Ian McShane (as investigator David Cleveland, not in books): Bloodsport, In the Frame, Twice Shy or The Racing Game, 6 PBS episodes starring Mike Gwilym as Sid Halley (Francis book series).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Wsm

    It begins well,with lots of twists and turns.For a change,the hero is a bookmaker,something which has never happened in a Francis novel before.But the bookmaker is still a good guy,as all the Francis heroes are.The prose isn't as prim and proper,as in the earlier books.Felix's writing is,at times,a bit jarring.The book remains interesting for the most part and the central mystery is a bit of a shock. (3.5 stars).

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    I buy novels by Dick Francis out of hope for a spark of the old energy, but haven't found it i a while.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Evyn Charles

    Another winner. If you have never read Dick Francis, he is addictive. If you already know his books, you don't need this review because you--like myself--eagerly awaits everything he writes! His last few books have been co-authored with his son Felix and that seems to have invigorated his writing. I have never read a disappointing book from this author; of course, they all follow predictable "formulas" but it works for me. Kind of like your favorite ice-cream flavor should always taste the same. Another winner. If you have never read Dick Francis, he is addictive. If you already know his books, you don't need this review because you--like myself--eagerly awaits everything he writes! His last few books have been co-authored with his son Felix and that seems to have invigorated his writing. I have never read a disappointing book from this author; of course, they all follow predictable "formulas" but it works for me. Kind of like your favorite ice-cream flavor should always taste the same. It's not great literature, just very well written, gripping, fast paced and enjoyable. I read this one very quickly; hard to put down. As usual, the background is horse racing. This time, the hero is a bookmaker--not the easiest profession to sympathize with; this created interesting challenges that the writers easily jumped over like a champion horse over hurdles (OK, I had to throw in a horse racing analogy!). There are back stories regarding two of the hero's relatives living with mental illnesses. Again, I appreciated the challenge that represented in order to keep the overall pacing fast and light.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    Not good. I don't think Felix quite gets it. He has a heavier hand than his father in the earlier books. The characters are not as delightfully genteel and the educational content (here about betting, id-ing horses, bi-polar disorder, electronics and MORE) is way over done. The plot is also over done. In this story Ned Talbot is a bookie on the racetrack who meets a man claiming to be the father that Ned thought to have died 30 years ago. The same day Ned meets him, the father who lives in Not good. I don't think Felix quite gets it. He has a heavier hand than his father in the earlier books. The characters are not as delightfully genteel and the educational content (here about betting, id-ing horses, bi-polar disorder, electronics and MORE) is way over done. The plot is also over done. In this story Ned Talbot is a bookie on the racetrack who meets a man claiming to be the father that Ned thought to have died 30 years ago. The same day Ned meets him, the father who lives in Australia, is murdered. The plot goes on from investigating his father's murder to investigating his father, to Ned's problems with his mentally ill wife, to Ned's problems with his staff, to a case of horse mistaken identity, to incidents of computer malfunction, and ad infinitum.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ahamed Kamil

    A bit boring read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    I wonder if this will be the last book published with Dick Francis's name first and foremost, or if, like the protagonist in this book, Felix Francis will cease to ride his parent's famous and successful coattails, and put his own name on the banner on future publications. I liked this book. Interesting protagonist, twisted mystery, reasonably cogent plot, decent characterization, etc. I didn't love it, though, as I often have some of Dick Francis's novels. Accustomed as I am to stopping to I wonder if this will be the last book published with Dick Francis's name first and foremost, or if, like the protagonist in this book, Felix Francis will cease to ride his parent's famous and successful coattails, and put his own name on the banner on future publications. I liked this book. Interesting protagonist, twisted mystery, reasonably cogent plot, decent characterization, etc. I didn't love it, though, as I often have some of Dick Francis's novels. Accustomed as I am to stopping to admire the wordcraft, I was slightly let down this time to find myself stopping instead to consider how I would have rewritten some of the prose. It could have been tighter in places, particularly in the early going. As protagonists go, Ned Talbot was interesting and sympathetic but not as rounded as earlier unwilling heroes have been. I liked him, but didn't find him particularly resonant, and I'm not sure he'll stick in my mind in the long term. Or maybe he will, because of the convoluted nature of his family life. I'm not sure I've ever been so lukewarm about a Dick Francis novel. Usually I feel strongly about them, one way (I loved Straight) or the other (didn't and still don't care for Slay-Ride). Still, Mr. Francis is one of my favourite authors, and I was so sorry that we lost him last year. I'm obviously still clinging to the name. Keep writing, Felix. And use your own name.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rich

    Felix suffers from Tom Clancy Syndrome. That is where an author is compelled--maybe by OCD--to share EVERYTHING he learned in researching the book with the reader. He gives far too much information on betting and how odds are set to the reader--to the point of including tables at the first of the book. Whereas his dad knew how to feather in the necessary information into the story in a way that educated the reader, but kept the story moving along briskly. (BTW when you see a combination like this Felix suffers from Tom Clancy Syndrome. That is where an author is compelled--maybe by OCD--to share EVERYTHING he learned in researching the book with the reader. He gives far too much information on betting and how odds are set to the reader--to the point of including tables at the first of the book. Whereas his dad knew how to feather in the necessary information into the story in a way that educated the reader, but kept the story moving along briskly. (BTW when you see a combination like this with Dick Francis on top and Felix Francis below--you can be assured that Felix did the writing while Dick probably worked on the outline. The publisher does this to sell more books. They know we wouldn't pick up a title by Felix Francis.) The plot information has been given by the other writers, so I'm not going to give it. In some ways the story kept me more interested that the previous two outings of the two together. But it still suffers from Felix's inability--or the editor's lack of balls--to curtail huge information dumps. (Double trailer dump truck loads.) The other problem I had with the story was the peckishness of the main character. He seemed to be driven by immaturity and fits of pique. And just before the ending of the book there is a huge confession that changes the entire tone of the book, and not in a good way. I really worry that Felix will be able to learn the craft before his dad dies. Dick is almost 90 now.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Teddy “Ned” Talbot has had both his feet in the horse and bookie world, since he was a little boy. He worked as a runner for his grandfather. He knows all there is about the business of being a really good bookie. Ned is approached by a man claiming to be his father. Ned doesn’t believe him as his father and mother died in a car crash years ago. Ned has no choice but to believe the man when he knows details and facts about things that only Ned’s father would know. Before they can get close, a Teddy “Ned” Talbot has had both his feet in the horse and bookie world, since he was a little boy. He worked as a runner for his grandfather. He knows all there is about the business of being a really good bookie. Ned is approached by a man claiming to be his father. Ned doesn’t believe him as his father and mother died in a car crash years ago. Ned has no choice but to believe the man when he knows details and facts about things that only Ned’s father would know. Before they can get close, a man approaches them and demands to know where the money is from Ned’s father. Ned calls for help and the man flees. By this time it is already too late. His father has been stabbed to death. Ned goes to his father’s hotel room and there he finds lots of cash and a strange device that is every bookie’s dream. I have been eyeing Dick Francis’s books for some time but just never read one till now. A reason I was drawn to this author is because of the horse on the cover. I am a sucker for horse elated books or books that have horses on the covers. I though this was a so, so read. The plot had some interesting parts but it couldn’t hold up all the way through for me. Ned never really connected with me on a level that made me want to get drawn into the story fully. The authorities were clueless and if it wasn’t for Ned the case would have gone unsolved. Unfortunately Even Money wasn’t a Triple Crown winner this time.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bev Walkling

    I really enjoyed reading this joint effort between Dick Francis and his son Felix. I had read most of Dick Francis's novels many years ago - long enough that I can't fairly compare the writing style but this book kept me interested from early on. I have read one other book by Felix Francis and in both books I was intrigued enough by the main characters to want to know more about them. This particularl novel takes the reader into the life of a book-maker up against those out to put him out of I really enjoyed reading this joint effort between Dick Francis and his son Felix. I had read most of Dick Francis's novels many years ago - long enough that I can't fairly compare the writing style but this book kept me interested from early on. I have read one other book by Felix Francis and in both books I was intrigued enough by the main characters to want to know more about them. This particularl novel takes the reader into the life of a book-maker up against those out to put him out of business. His wife is bi-polar and some fair amount of time goes into explaining what this meant to them and their relationship. Some reviewers don't seem to like that, but I think it helps with removing the stigma from mental health issues. I have never been to a horse race (other than the Calgary Stampede once) and have never placed a bet with a bookie. I doubt if I ever will either but I enjoyed reading this interesting mystery.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    Reading a Dick Francis novel is as comfortable as an old pair of shoes. He writes wonderfully and even when the plot deals with an unfamiliar topic, bookmaking in Even Money, it makes little difference to enjoying the story. The main characters are ordinary individuals caught up in extraordinary circumstances. In Even Money it is a legal independent bookmaker at the track trying to entice bettors (punters) to bet with him by providing slightly better odds, and payout, than the big off-track Reading a Dick Francis novel is as comfortable as an old pair of shoes. He writes wonderfully and even when the plot deals with an unfamiliar topic, bookmaking in Even Money, it makes little difference to enjoying the story. The main characters are ordinary individuals caught up in extraordinary circumstances. In Even Money it is a legal independent bookmaker at the track trying to entice bettors (punters) to bet with him by providing slightly better odds, and payout, than the big off-track betting corporations. The bookmaker, Ned Talbot, is interupted by this old guy who eventually claims to be his dead father of 36 years. He is immediately killed before Ned can prove or disprove his claim. And the action escalates from there. Add in some heartbreaking personal problems with a mentally ill wife and grandmother with dementia and Francis has written another terrific story. Read it! You won't be disappointed.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    This latest collaboration between Dick Francis and Felix Francis again has all the elements of a book written by someone other than Dick Francis. There are long stretches of exposition about bookmaking, mental illness and other sundry things where in earlier novels the exposition was more limited. The dialogue and the spare crisp writing style are muted but the ordinary business man placed in a bad situation who has to get even against the evil bad man without resorting to the help of the police This latest collaboration between Dick Francis and Felix Francis again has all the elements of a book written by someone other than Dick Francis. There are long stretches of exposition about bookmaking, mental illness and other sundry things where in earlier novels the exposition was more limited. The dialogue and the spare crisp writing style are muted but the ordinary business man placed in a bad situation who has to get even against the evil bad man without resorting to the help of the police is still there and the lack of a female character of any substance is still there and the story does move along and the ability to write about even another area of horse racing is remarkable. Its not written the same as the earlier Francis novels, its not frankly as good, but there is still something to like in this novel.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lance Greenfield

    Not quite a gripping thriller Even Money is a fairly good story, with plenty of insight into the world of horse racing, and lots of accurate geographical descriptions of England’s countryside, roads and race courses. The principal character, a bookmaker called Ned Talbot, struggles his way through a series of shocking revelations and seriously threatening challenges. I wouldn’t describe the story as taut or tense or gripping or unputdownable, or any of the other clichés that reviewers often apply Not quite a gripping thriller Even Money is a fairly good story, with plenty of insight into the world of horse racing, and lots of accurate geographical descriptions of England’s countryside, roads and race courses. The principal character, a bookmaker called Ned Talbot, struggles his way through a series of shocking revelations and seriously threatening challenges. I wouldn’t describe the story as taut or tense or gripping or unputdownable, or any of the other clichés that reviewers often apply to thrillers. Nevertheless, I would definitely recommend it to any of my friends who like a good crime thriller, especially those who like an English setting. It won’t be the best thriller that you have ever read, but I can guarantee that it will certainly not be anywhere near the worst.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jjanovyak

    This was a real pleasure. I've been worried by the idea of the father/son collaboration, afraid that these racetrack mysteries will lose their charm if diluted by another voice. That was a waste of brain time on my part. Felix Francis has stepped into the partnership virtually seamlessly, and this latest offering is a real pleasure. The pacing moves as quickly as ever, and Ned Talbot is a likeable and sympathetic hero, whose marital love story is authentically touching. Add in some little This was a real pleasure. I've been worried by the idea of the father/son collaboration, afraid that these racetrack mysteries will lose their charm if diluted by another voice. That was a waste of brain time on my part. Felix Francis has stepped into the partnership virtually seamlessly, and this latest offering is a real pleasure. The pacing moves as quickly as ever, and Ned Talbot is a likeable and sympathetic hero, whose marital love story is authentically touching. Add in some little touches that make it up to date (I loved that Ned uses Google Earth) and the authoritative details about bookmaking, and the sum is a truly satisfying entertainment.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carrieuoregon

    I'm so glad Felix got involved with the family business. I think he's really got a feel for it. I was happy to read about the life of a bookies, a profession never explored by Dick Francis before (I can think of only one bookmaker's assistant who was a significant character). A great tale about depression, with a realistic, but positive message. I don't feel this ranks among the very best Francis novels, but it was good, and I was so happy to read it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    This is book 3 that has been written with son Felix Francis. By far, the best that has been done since he started helping! I have always loved the horse racing aspect of Francis' stories. This one, centers on book maker Teddy Talbot and the art of betting. It was a great mystery and just a fun read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sandy Sexton

    I found the plot and subplots interesting, and I liked the main character, a bookie. I also thought that description was used artfully in that in a sparing sentence or two, the mood of a place was established or a strong hint of a character's personality was delivered indirectly. Ned Talbot was a likable main character, but his risk taking behavior didn't always sit well with the caution he shows in his relationships. Unlike some other reviewers, I enjoyed finding out about the mathematics I found the plot and subplots interesting, and I liked the main character, a bookie. I also thought that description was used artfully in that in a sparing sentence or two, the mood of a place was established or a strong hint of a character's personality was delivered indirectly. Ned Talbot was a likable main character, but his risk taking behavior didn't always sit well with the caution he shows in his relationships. Unlike some other reviewers, I enjoyed finding out about the mathematics behind the bookie profession; the exploration of how professions work has always been part of Dick Francis novels. Whether it be glassblowing, hot air ballooning or merchant banking, it's interesting to have a taste of another field of work. Ned didn't seem to have a love of horses, which could well be the truth for many bookies, but as I love the background of horses and racing in the Francis novels I was disappointed that our hero didn't seem to feel outrage or at least mild sadness when horses were abused. However, I enjoyed the read, asking myself if I didn't have such a positive experience because of my reading history. Did I enjoy this novel because I've so enjoyed all Dick Francis books? No matter. Perhaps in the more recent books the echo from past novels contributes to their success, but as the echo is palpable, why not enjoy it?

  23. 4 out of 5

    KawasakiBabe

    Dick Francis and son Felix have come up with yet another tale involving the shady and complex world of horse racing. Beautifully put together and neatly concluded, Ned, whose wife in a home for the mentally unstable is a small time bookie, working the race course circuit. He has a very clever assistant, Luca, who can do almost anything with electronics. Out of the blue, Ned is approached by a man who in front of his very eyes gets killed. Ned ends up with this chap's belongings, one of which is an Dick Francis and son Felix have come up with yet another tale involving the shady and complex world of horse racing. Beautifully put together and neatly concluded, Ned, whose wife in a home for the mentally unstable is a small time bookie, working the race course circuit. He has a very clever assistant, Luca, who can do almost anything with electronics. Out of the blue, Ned is approached by a man who in front of his very eyes gets killed. Ned ends up with this chap's belongings, one of which is an electronic gadget; Luca works out what it is, but it causes no end of problems, as other people are after this gadget, and will stop at nothing to get it. It is a thoroughly good plot, a good read, and a satisfying ending.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cyndi

    I liked the main character in this Dick Francis book about the people around horse racing who end up in a mystery. The main character was not your usual run of the mill suave guy whom the girls fall all over but has a wife who deals with mental illness and he sticks by her during the hard times. He is not your usual private eye who deals with bad guys all the time and he mostly doesn't bring the trouble on but when it occurs he hits back and hits hard. Don't want to give away anything so you I liked the main character in this Dick Francis book about the people around horse racing who end up in a mystery. The main character was not your usual run of the mill suave guy whom the girls fall all over but has a wife who deals with mental illness and he sticks by her during the hard times. He is not your usual private eye who deals with bad guys all the time and he mostly doesn't bring the trouble on but when it occurs he hits back and hits hard. Don't want to give away anything so you will just have to read it and if you aren't a horse racing fan (I am not), the author doesn't go in too deep.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Ned Talbot is a bookmaker, having taken over his grandfather’s business. One day while at work, a man steps up to Ned’s booth and identifies himself as Ned’s father. Ned can’t believe it because he believes his father has been dead for 35 years. But as they talk later, he becomes convinced Peter is telling the truth. Not more than an hour later, Peter is stabbed to death in the parking lot. Police identification indicates he is Alan Grady. So why the multiple identities and why seek out Ned Ned Talbot is a bookmaker, having taken over his grandfather’s business. One day while at work, a man steps up to Ned’s booth and identifies himself as Ned’s father. Ned can’t believe it because he believes his father has been dead for 35 years. But as they talk later, he becomes convinced Peter is telling the truth. Not more than an hour later, Peter is stabbed to death in the parking lot. Police identification indicates he is Alan Grady. So why the multiple identities and why seek out Ned now? Ok, but not great. This is the second collaborative volume I've read (Dead Heat being the other) and this falls flat in my opinion. The first part moves along but the resolution at the end seemed weak compared to other Francis mysteries.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stuart Macmartin

    I filed this as mystery but I expect technically it’s thriller? Took me a while to get into this book, and some of it is a bit formulaic. But as usual the details of some aspect of the horse racing industry are interesting and the cons are fun. Overall I enjoyed it but not as much as the ones with only the Dick Francis name. I suspect the original draft had fewer of his words, and I suspect it misses his wife’s contribution. (Miles per hour? One thing slipped in for American consumption?)

  27. 4 out of 5

    John

    My second time to read this jointly authored tale about bookmaking in England. Full of twists and turns where nothing is as it seems, Ned Talbot is balancing his business and his wife, Sophie's health while unravelling the mystery brought to him from someone in his distant past. He has such a strong distrust of the police detective and a "james Bond" bent that he does some very dodgy things to pursue the clues to their inevitable conclusion. Excellent and entertaining.

  28. 5 out of 5

    DenXXX

    Another Francis novel and another mystery. This time it centres on Ned Talbot, who faces himself face to face with his father, who he thought died when he was a baby. Just as he begins to believe he is actually his father and not someone trying his luck, his father is fatally stabbed and this leads to a lot of questions ... and problems. Liked how everything is pulled together in the last couple of chapters and not always in the way you think it might go.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Candy

    Began this story some years ago. For whatever reason, I moved onto a new book/author and never finished this story. Actually, forgot the title of the book until recently. Now I know why I never finished it in one sitting. Horse-racing doesn't interest me much, but a good mystery does. This story had a decent mystery, but the ending wasn't a surprise to me. Overall, I recommend this book to avid readers.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Paulos Maximus

    My second Dick Francis novel and admittedly I was not enthusiastic about reading stories about the horse industry (Just personal preference). However, the usual Francis way of drawing me into a character and his industry (which was a great up-schooling) made for a fascinating and interesting read. As with all the Francis novels I've read, there is a great roll-up and tying up of many loose ends by the end, so there is a satisfying post-mortem to these books, rather than an abrupt finish.

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