Crisis by Felix Francis - book review
Since the death of his father in 2010, the legendary jockey and crime writer Dick Francis, Francis junior has turned out to be the family’s dark horse as he rides solo with his own exciting and atmospheric racing whodunits.
And now he’s back in the saddle and continuing his winning run in a thriller that stars a dangerously dysfunctional horse racing dynasty which turns in on itself with deadly results when a stable blaze kills a string of highly-prized thoroughbreds.
Brimming with suspense, mystery and menace, and littered with the Francis family’s trademark nuggets of fascinating insider facts on horse racing, Crisis hits the ground running and, true to form, delivers a jaw-dropping twist on the finishing line.
Harrison (Harry) Foster, a trained lawyer who works as a crisis manager for a London firm, is summoned to Newmarket after a disastrous fire at the renowned Chadwick family stables slaughters six very valuable horses.
Harry’s client is Sheikh Karim, the Middle-Eastern owner of Prince of Troy, the short-priced favourite for the Derby which is among the valuable horses that died when a blaze engulfed the whole stable block.
But there is far more to the fire than initially meets the eye. For a start, police have found human remains in the burnt-out shell and as all the stable staff have been accounted for, the victim’s identity is a mystery.
Harry knows very little about horses – indeed, he positively dislikes them – but soon he is thrust unwillingly into the world of thoroughbred racing where the standard of care of the equine stars is far higher than that of the humans who look after them.
Meanwhile, inter-sibling wars have broken out ‘big time’ among the Chadwick family racing dynasty and it is getting nasty. Resentment between the generations is rife, with patriarch Oliver Chadwick still holding the reins and bad blood between his two trainer sons, Ryan and Declan.
Youngest son Tony is still riding as a jockey but has never reached the success of his two older brothers, and Oliver’s only daughter Zoe is married and lives in London.
As Harry delves deeper into the unanswered questions surrounding the horse’s demise, he ignites a fuse that blows a volcano of bad feelings sky-high, putting himself in grave jeopardy and unearthing Chadwick family secrets that others would prefer to leave well buried.
A trained physicist, Francis has developed his own winning formula in these intriguing, fast-paced gallops, blending murder, mystery and the thrills of horse racing in gritty, hard-hitting stories full of twists and turns, and featuring well-drawn characters and compelling scene-setting.
Crisis sees the Francis heir on top form, setting his own course in the literary world but always keeping one eye on the racecourse which has proved such fertile ground for his own family dynasty.
(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £20)