74 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on 31 July 2006
'Under Orders' is vintage Dick Francis. It is almost as though the last six years hadn't happened, but it reminded me how much I had missed him while he was away.
All the classic elements of a Dick Francis novel are there. The hero (in this case, the fourth outing for the jockey turned private investigator Sid Halley who has previously been seen in 'Odds Against', 'Whip Hand' and 'Come to Grief') with his humble yet wise nature and his knack for self-deprecating humour; the racetrack and the horses, without which it wouldn't truly feel right; the arrogant press; the beautiful girl... It all sounds rather cliched, yet the elements have succeeded for 39 previous novels with little variation and still remains a success.
As ever, Dick shows he has a superb ability to keep the action at a steady pace with our hero overcoming various hurdles and speeding up at breakneck speed to the finishing line. Never one to shy away from a showdown with the villain of the piece, Dick always manages to get the reader on the edge of their seat and the finale to 'Under Orders' is no exception.
Like all good crime novels and 'whodunits', 'Under Orders' has its fair share of suspects and various motives and sub plots. Within this story, we have internet gambling, race-fixing and family feuds. I was genuinely surprised by the final revelation.
For all those pessimistic nay-sayers who claimed his wife actually wrote all the books, here is the proof that Mr Francis is a talent to be reckoned with, unless the late Mrs Francis has been using a planchette.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 11 November 2006
I have read everything Dick Francis ever wrote and I have to say this book was a disappointment. While there is nothing outstandingly bad about it and it is quite well written, compared with his previous books it is certainly lacking both in suspence and in interesting characters. That special atmosphere of the racing world that always captivated my imagination is gone and the information given about it seem forced.
Also, this book is the fourth which features ex-jockey Sid Halley, so an irritatingly large potrion of it was spent explaining his history and his relationship to the other characters, things that are already known to readers who have read the prequels. However, more annoying was the fact that it does not coply with the other books in many ways; e.g. Sid's ex-father-in-law has very different personality, his ex-wife is still inexplicably angry at him, although they made peace in the last book, and Rachel, a little girl dying of cancer whom Sid had come to love as a daughter, is not even mentioned. Lastly, the number of people who had died of or had cancer in this book defies all laws of probability!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 March 2010
The reviews of this book are mixed, and rightly so, I have put off reading this since I bought it when it first came out. Well, I'm reading it now and at the moment have reached page 120 with mixed feelings. I have read all his previous books and really enjoyed them, sometimes staying up into the small hours to finish a tale.
I have also enjoyed the previous 'Halley' stories. Now, this is the point of my review - I have only got one arm, I've been like that since birth, so I am not sensative about it. I have set of alarms going through security, had my food cut for me in restaurants etc, etc. In this novel, I finally tired of the continued references to the artificial limb and the problems arising from his disability. I thought it cheap page fillers.
With reference to the author, I believe he should have remained retired and left us with great memories of a great thriller writer, this is a book too far. He passed away recently and I was sad at his passing. I will remember him for pleasure he gave with his previous gripping, brilliant novels and try to forget this one.
RIP Dick Francis.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Former steeplechase jockey, now investigator, Sid Halley, has his one real and one artificial hand's full. While attending a steeplechase race, Lord Enstone asks that Sid investigate whether his horses' trainer is deliberately influencing how they run. The trainers' jockey, who had been trying to reach Sid, is found dead after having been shot three times. When, days later, the trainer is found dead, everyone is ready to write it off as suicide over guilt of being caught out--everyone bud Sid.
This is classic and masterful Dick Francis with his excellent opening hooks. Now, ten years after the previous Halley book, Francis has allowed his recurring characters to age and mature in a realistic way; Sid has a stable relationship, his ex-wife is less bitter and his former father-in-law is getting older. You are given enough of Sid's background to understand his vulnerabilities and what motivates him, and Francis has given him a girl friend of his equal. However, Francis doesn't assume you've read the previous books and so provides enough background so this book could be read as a standalone. The new characters are also fully developed.
I always learn things when I read Francis' books. In this case, about prosthetics, on-line gambling, British police procedure, DNA, and other things, but never in a preachy way or one that takes me out of the story.
Because Francis' plots are so interesting, one almost loses how well he creates sense of place and dialogue. At one point, when I feared he was falling into a clichéd style, he character stated he wasn't going to do the clichéd action. Even when he had a clue that, I thought, was fairly obvious, he added a nice twist to it that I hadn't expected.
While this book may not have been a continually gripping as some of Francis' previous, it had enough suspense to keep me continually turning the pages and one the sofa from page one to the very end--and I loved the end-- without stopping. I highly recommend this book, and am delighted Mr. Francis' is back. Long may he write!!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 July 2011
The problem with this fourth in the Sid Halley series is that there is too much exposition. We don't need a blow by blow account of how DNA testing is carried out, neither do we need details of internet gambling, nor the legislative process in the UK. These divergences do not move the action along but slow things down. At least on re-reading you can always skip them.
Not one of the best Francis books I'm afraid. Best to start with the first Sid Halley - Odds Against, then progress through Whip Hand to Come to Grief.
When Dick Francis stopped writing for personal reasons, which need not be mentioned here. It left a huge void, that was never really filled, although there are many authors with a horse racing background, writing books today. Most of them are very good, but none of them have the magic touch of Dick Francis. This is Dick Francis's first novel for six years. Before that he had written in excess of 35 novels. Many short stories, his autobiography and the biography of arguably the greatest jockey that ever lived, Lester Piggott.
Under Orders is a classic Dick Francis Thriller, with all of the elements that only he seems able to supply. It is the day of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, former champion jockey, turned sleuth knows the perils of racing only too well, but in his day, jockeys didn't usually reach the finishing line with three pistol rounds in the chest. But this is exactly how he finds Huw Walker, who only a couple of races earlier has won the coveted Triumph Hurdle.
Shortly before the horrific discovery, Halley had been called by lord Enstone to make enquiries into why his horses, however favoured or fit they happened to be were on a permanent losing streak. Is there a dangerous game being played by trainers and jockeys? Are they fixing races? Is doping involved? All of these things are a possibility and it's up to Halley to come up with the answer as he is drawn ever deeper into the darker side of the racing world . . .
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2010
I really wanted to give this book three-and-a-half stars. It's not really that bad, and the main character is quite likeable. It's rather pedestrian though, and it doesn't really set the world alight. Dick Francis has written worse, but he has also written better. Keep an eye out for the good ones ... that's all I can say really.
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
To the best of my knowledge it has been six years since the last Dick Francis mystery. I had reluctantly resigned myself to the fact that there probably wouldn't be another one, but here it is! Another entertaining read from the master of track thrillers featuring one of my favorite protagonists, Sid Halley, former jockey who lost a hand thus ending his career in racing. He then turned to sleuthing with an eagle eye and a nose for the nefarious.
In this, his 42nd book, Francis wastes no time in hooking readers: "Sadly, death at the races is not uncommon. However, three in a single afternoon was sufficiently unusual to raise more than an eyebrow. That only one of the deaths was of a horse was more than enough to bring the local constabulary hotfoot to the track."
One of the recently departed is jockey Huy Walker - dispatched with three bullets to the heart. He had been having an affair with trainer Bill Burton's wife. That was more than enough to put Burton at the top of the suspect list......until Burton himself turned up dead.
Halley had been approached by Lord Enstone to look into why Enstone's horses weren't getting anywhere near the Winner's Circle. Enstone wants to know what's going on at the track - bribes, race fixing?
Well, that kind of skullduggery is bad enough but murder is quite another thing. Halley feels compelled to look into the killings, but in doing so puts his own life at risk.
As always, readers will relish the author's thorough knowledge of racing and his deft way with a plot. Racing, as we know, is the sport of kings. Exemplary crime fiction is the sport of Dick Francis.
- Gail Cooke
on 27 June 2013
I have read just about all the novels by Dick Francis - and his son Felix who is carrying on the good work his father did all those years. I decided to re-read some of his earlier works and find that though the outline story is still somewhere at the back of my mind it is good to once more get involved with the detail of the novel and the characters and enjoy once again the ingenious way Dick Francis weaves the plots of his stories. It was also good to catch up with the Sid Halley character who has 'moved on' in his life; if fact in this one he gets married again.
on 17 April 2014
I always reread Dick Francis books and there always seems to be something I don't remember from previous times. This one is as good as always, and to be recommended. I first read it years ago and rebought it because I wanted the UK version. I don't like British books being re-edited for Americanisations. Surely it's not hard to understand words like 'racecourse' and I find it distracting to read things like Cheltenham 'racetrack.' Buy the UK version unless you want to learn how to speak American.