In later years, Dick Francis diluted his brand a little by churning out too many novels that were too much the same, but this one is vintage (an apt term since the development of Australian wine exports is a plot point) and, in my opinion, his finest. From the opening page, in which the hero arrives for a family visit and is dumped in the middle of a crime scene, you are in the thick of things and the pace never lets up: especially as this is a chase novel as well as a mystery. Painter Charles Todd finds himself playing gooseberry to his newly-wed best friend and wife as they help him keep one jump ahead of art-forging crooks in a rampage around Australia. The local colour is great ('Come to paint Australia red!' enthuses one character), crazy comedy alternates with high drama, and even characters we only meet for a page or two have an immediate reality.
Francis has his limitations: not least the way his gorgeous heroines seem to manifest their 'impact-making intelligence' mainly by hanging on the hero's every word and asking all the right questions. Still, he manages to pack more nuance into fewer pages than almost any other thriller-writer. For the record, I think his other best books are Slay Ride, Odds Against, Smokescreen, and Forfeit. Flying Finish, Bonecrack and Reflex are good as well.