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4.4 out of 5 stars70
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 8 December 2008
I've been a Dick Francis fan for 25 years and have read and re-read everything he's written with glee and delight: even when the basic plots and what happened to the hero seem formulaic, the background research and the sparkling dialogue, and the quick way in which the author taught you about the new area of knowledge the book was dealing with always shone out against much less accomplished writers.

Sadly, the recent efforts lack that polish and clarity and Silks is even more longwinded than Dead Heat was. Perhaps some of the fault lies in the main character, a rather staid and straight-laced barrister who takes most of the book to be jolted out of his rather complacent life, but the dialogue seemed stilted, whole pages were devoted to complex backstory that previous books would have dashed off in a few succinct paragraphs, and overall I felt what was needed most was a good editor.

Once the story got going I did enjoy it, but getting to that point was a chore, no devouring page after page with gusto as in previous works.

Its great that Dick Francis is still writing, and I'm glad his son Felix is able to work with him but I suspect what we're really lacking here is the fine and sure touch of his wife Mary; it must be hard to change a writing team that had honed its skills to perfection. This is readable, and somewhat fun, but I hope the next book sees Dick and Felix getting into their stride.

Not one I'll be re-reading, sad to say and three stars mainly because even a poor Dick Francis is still a Dick Francis
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on 13 July 2009
I'd had this book for a week before I had time to read it and was looking forward to it very much. I have all of his other books and have read them several times. It took a very long time for me to get into the book, Far to much legal waffle for me. The thing that upset me most was half way through a photo was found to be missing showing a dead girl with a foal. I recently read John Francome's Cover Up and I read on with dread that this book was going to follow the same story line, and it did. Surely someone involved with the production ot this book should have noticed the similarity, Cover Up was only published in 2005. I do hope He does better next time.
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on 7 October 2009
Silks was one of those books I didn't want to put down! Dick Francis has the knack of describing the writer's feelings of fear and love together with excitement around the storyline. It was detailed regarding court procedures without being boring and taking one through a horse race as if on the back of the horse. His description of the injuries sustained in a fall, made one feel them personally! The life of a jockey is opened up for all to experience and literally feel!

The story kept me guessing about the outcome to the last page and cleverley involved a genuine fear for the main character's father.
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VINE VOICEon 2 March 2009
For over fifty years since he famously rode Devon Loch in the Grand National, Dick Francis has made a living out of writing stories about the horse racing world with which he is familiar. His familiarity with that world remains and, in this latest book, he attempts to weave a pattern with the world of lawyers or, more specifically barristers, who are commonly called silks.

The story is one of intrigue, sex and violence, a reflection of the changing world in which we live, although I'm not convinced a practicing barrister would have been intimidated the way Francis's character needed to be for the purposes of the story. Most of them are too arrogant.

The underlying storyline is simple. Geoffrey Mason is a defence barrister who loses a case and is threatened by his client (and entourage) when the conviction is overturned on appeal. Owing to the inbred world of racing there's an intricate series of sub-plots - including the usual love angle - and an unusual ending suggesting that lawyers also know how to work the system.

For someone whose books are so well researched I was surprised to see the inclusion of the Lincoln/Kennedy urban myth but, in terms of reasonable explanation of racing and legal backgrounds, it reached the usual high standards. However, I wasn't really convinced that anyone would be called, "Mr Barrister Man" by their love interest and, sadly, the language has deteriorated over time. In overall terms the book perhaps should carry the Crimewatch warning for readers not to have nightmares.

It was a good and easy read, not up to John Grisham perhaps, but indicative of the fact that the Francis family (second son Felix collaborated in the writing) may outlast the original author.
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The classic Dick Francis books are filled with heart-pounding steeplechase action, deadly criminals, and arcane insights into horse racing from a jockey's perspective. The least appealing books in the series are those where the interaction with steeplechases is minimal. Silks is somewhere between the two extremes. The steeplechase setting is present for bits and pieces of the story, but courtroom drama substitutes for much of the potential on-course action. Fortunately, the legal thriller aspects of the story are pretty well done and bring new perspective for American readers into the English legal system.

Geoffrey ("Perry" to his fellow jockeys) Mason is a barrister (a lawyer who tries cases in England) whose hobby is riding his horse, Sandeman, in mostly amateur steeplechases. As the book opens, he is defending an unsavory sort, Julian Trent, who seems to be a psychopath. Losing the case turns out to be a bad turn for Mason when Trent decides he wants revenge against his barrister.

A little time later, Trent has gotten out of jail through an appeal where the witnesses refuse to testify against him, apparently having been intimidated. Rather than immediately kill Mason, Trent instead seems more interested in controlling Mason's legal work for fellow jockey, Steve Mitchell, who is accused of murdering another jockey. Mason is thoroughly intimidated and unsure what he will do. The stakes are raised when the threats start to include those close to Mason.

The reference to silks is a very clever choice for a title, referring to racing silks as well as the term for Queen's Counsel, the cream of the litigating attorneys. Mason as an owner has racing silks, represents his own racing silks when he rides, and hopes to earn the position of a silk within the legal profession.

To me, the book's main drawback is an exceptional amount of violence. I normally find it hard to deal with the most intense scene in most Dick Francis books. Where that violence permeates a book like this one, it definitely takes some of the shine off my ability to enjoy the story.

There are definitely two writers for this story, as evidenced by many classic Dick Francis sections and many new story-telling sections that must be from his son, Felix. As they write more books together, I'm sure the two styles will blend together more smoothly than they do here. I hope that will involve a lighter hand on the whip.
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The classic Dick Francis books are filled with heart-pounding steeplechase action, deadly criminals, and arcane insights into horse racing from a jockey's perspective. The least appealing books in the series are those where the interaction with steeplechases is minimal. Silks is somewhere between the two extremes. The steeplechase setting is present for bits and pieces of the story, but courtroom drama substitutes for much of the potential on-course action. Fortunately, the legal thriller aspects of the story are pretty well done and bring new perspective for American readers into the English legal system.

Geoffrey ("Perry" to his fellow jockeys) Mason is a barrister (a lawyer who tries cases in England) whose hobby is riding his horse, Sandeman, in mostly amateur steeplechases. As the book opens, he is defending an unsavory sort, Julian Trent, who seems to be a psychopath. Losing the case turns out to be a bad turn for Mason when Trent decides he wants revenge against his barrister.

A little time later, Trent has gotten out of jail through an appeal where the witnesses refuse to testify against him, apparently having been intimidated. Rather than immediately kill Mason, Trent instead seems more interested in controlling Mason's legal work for fellow jockey, Steve Mitchell, who is accused of murdering another jockey. Mason is thoroughly intimidated and unsure what he will do. The stakes are raised when the threats start to include those close to Mason.

The reference to silks is a very clever choice for a title, referring to racing silks as well as the term for Queen's Counsel, the cream of the litigating attorneys. Mason as an owner has racing silks, represents his own racing silks when he rides, and hopes to earn the position of a silk within the legal profession.

To me, the book's main drawback is an exceptional amount of violence. I normally find it hard to deal with the most intense scene in most Dick Francis books. Where that violence permeates a book like this one, it definitely takes some of the shine off my ability to enjoy the story.

There are definitely two writers for this story, as evidenced by many classic Dick Francis sections and many new story-telling sections that must be from his son, Felix. As they write more books together, I'm sure the two styles will blend together more smoothly than they do here. I hope that will involve a lighter hand on the whip.
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on 9 December 2008
Dick Francis is thankfully continuing his collaboration with his son to produce more of the same successful Francis that we have grown to know and love. Here there is a good mixture of racing and another ingredient (this time Law, last time catering), which for me, as a fan of the horse bits, works well. The usual elements: first person narrator hero threatened by nasty villains; new love interest; a bit of violence against our hero; eventual victory by the hero, who also gets the girl, all combine for a satisfying if undemanding read. Even if I guessed the identity of the main villain somewhere around the time of the first clue, the ending was not spoiled in any way for me.

To those who criticise this book for excessive violence, I don't think it is any more violent than many of Dick Francis's early books. The difference here is whodunnnit (trying not to spoil the book for those who haven't read it yet) and there is a certain justification given for it, even if you don't ultimately agree with the act.

All in all, I think the Francis team is developing well and hope they go on to produce more books together. Keep the racing for the racing fans, but blend with other backgrounds to stop the formula getting stale.

Although, one point in the otherwise thorough research I must pick up on ... King John only sealed Magna Carta: he never signed it (probably because he couldn't!).
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on 12 February 2014
perhaps had I not been such a huge Dick Francis fan this would have rated 3 stars instead of 2, or maybe I would have given it 1 star if the great Dick Francis name were not on it. I think disappointment made me give the lower rating. I have read every Dick Francis book and thoroughly enjoyed them all, (10lb penalty less than the others), and bought this with great expectations. they were not met. This is long winded, boring and difficult to get through. Although it says "Dick Francis with Felix Francis' I can't help feeling it is the other way round; Felix Francis with a bit of his father's help - and very little at that. I wonder if a famous author for a father isn't the only reason Felix got to publish this? The main character was not developed and became just an entity with little appeal. The story would not have been too bad had it been fuller and better researched, but the way it is I could wait to finish and throw the book away.
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on 29 January 2009
SilksI bought this book as a Christmas present for my wife. She is a keen Dick Francis fan, and owns almost every book that he has written. This is the second book written in collaboration with his son Felix. Dick's effort had been flagging slightly in his later books, I thought: they had become a little formulaic, and I was slightly worried that Felix might be simply trying bolster up his father's image: the mixture of law and horses could be a little boring ... However when I read this book, I was most pleasantly surprised. This is definitely back to the top Francis form, and runs at a cracking pace from beginning to end. I completed the second half at one sitting and could not put it down: the case has a real Perry Mason style finish, but in an English court. The final pages of the book also contain another interesting legal twist. Definitely not to be missed!
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on 4 February 2013
"Perry" Mason - (Geoffrey) is a fulltime barrister and a part-time steeple chase jockey.

A professional jockey, Steve Mitchell is accused of murdering his biggest rival, Scot Barlow. Geoffrey Mason is told by a man who he had prosecuted, to make sure that he looses the case, otherwise all those near and dear to him, will suffer the consequences.

I love Dick Francis books. I always learn something new about the world of horse racing. I also get to read a really good mystery. Once again - I'm not disappointed. This was full of all the right ingredients and kept me guessing as to the real purpose of the murder and also how "Perry" Mason was going to solve it - without himself or anyone close to him being killed off.
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