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Enjoy a Quick Trot through Dick Francis's Gamble
on 16 August 2011
"And the Egyptians pursued and went after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen." -- Exodus 14:23 (NKJV)
Unless you've never read a Dick Francis mystery about steeplechasing, you know what to expect. Someone connected to steeplechasing unexpectedly uncovers a crime, investigates in amateurish ways, is opposed by the police, falls into danger, has to face his or her greatest fear to survive, and the villains get their just deserts.
But I suspect that you enjoyed the mysteries because they were rich in racing knowledge and were written well enough that you felt as if you were the book's amateur detective undergoing all of the trials.
In Dick Francis's Gamble, you'll find the usual plot . . . with perhaps an improvement or two. So far, so good.
The connection to racing is there, but more by plot than by writing. I could have written the steeplechasing material, and I know nothing about riding or these races.
The writing itself isn't very good. You won't feel as if you are in the story most of the time. You'll feel as if you are reading a novel that's long on plot . . . and light on details and character development.
Still, as opposed to having no more Dick Francis-style mysteries, reading the book encourages an occasional recollection of a much better book in the original series.
If you had never read a Dick Francis mystery, you would probably see this book as a mildly entertaining summer read for a vacation.
Felix Francis will probably become a better writer in time, so don't give up on him just yet.