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An excellent read but not quite done
on 15 February 2012
For those of you who were as devastated as I was to say goodbye to the master of crime on the racecourse, the arrival of Gamble by his son, Felix, with little pomp or circumstance may have brought forth warring emotions of excitement and apprehension. The Dick Francis novel as we know it has been steadily changing over recent years as Felix has been having more of an input into the books. Undoubtedly still the father, but with touches of the son. This would be his first foray into solo writing in order to continue what his father has so comprehensively started, and the front cover states exactly what all fans would want to know in a single glance; 'A Dick Francis novel, by Felix Francis'.
Nicholas Foxton is a prematurely retired jockey through injury, now working as an independent financial advisor in London but gaining most of his client base from the racecourse. A seemingly safer choice of career until his colleague is shot at point blank range right next to him on Aintree racecourse with no clue as to who or why. This is the catalyst that propels Foxton into a world of guns, threats and dirty dealing proving that when it comes to gambling its not just the short off your back you can lose.
This has everything a Dick Francis novel should. The intrigue, the mystery, the personable characters and an entertaining and exciting story line. There are just some parts of it that feel a little rough and rushed, characters who aren't quite knitted and storylines that almost feel shoehorned into the plot line. The book is good and has all the ingredients to be another great Francis novel but unfortunately it just falls a little short.
I was exceptionally pleased to see that this is a totally unique story and not a rehash of previous stories and that though the writing was different it had all the hallmarks of someone who's worked with the original. But there were differences that made this novel definitely his own. For a start, the language used by his characters is certainly more earthly but always in keeping with the story, and the descriptions were of similar vistas but viewed through different eyes. Unfortunately for Felix this is the comparison he will come up again time and again when writing a Dick Francis novel and perhaps even if he branches out into his own, but from my point of view I am very glad that he has.
I think beyond anything else, this book gives me hope. I love Dick Francis books; his style, his characters and his writing so I honestly despaired on his death for purely selfish reasons that I would no longer have the joy of exploring one of his new books. The later collaborations with Felix, although slightly different, still always had the father's unique stamp on them and this would now be lost to the ether. but in Gamble, Felix has produced not only a good read but a commendable memorial to his father's great work as well as putting his stamp on the pages and making is decisively 'different' in a similar kind of way. This may not be my favourite 'Dick Francis novel' ever written, but it does give me hope that there will be many more to come in the future. And I shall be looking forward to them.