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About the Author

Dick Francis (pictured with his son Felix Francis) was born in South Wales in 1920. He was a young rider of distinction winning awards and trophies at horse shows throughout the United Kingdom. At the outbreak of World War II he joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot, flying fighter and bomber aircraft including the Spitfire and Lancaster.

He became one of the most successful postwar steeplechase jockeys, winning more than 350 races and riding for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. After his retirement from the saddle in 1957, he published an autobiography, The Sport of Queens, before going on to write more than forty acclaimed books, including the New York Times bestsellers Even Money and Silks. A three-time Edgar Award winner, he also received the prestigious Crime Writers' Association's Cartier Diamond Dagger, was named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, and was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in 2000. He died in February 2010, at age eighty-nine, and remains among the greatest thriller writers of all time.

Reviews

His 30th novel shows once again why Dick Francis ( Longshot ) is a major brand name in the thriller genre; the components here include seamless and swift plotting, a wonderful mix of believable characters, suspense and a bang-on horse-racing background. Peter Darwin, a young diplomat stationed in Japan, has just landed a plum job in the English Foreign Office. Stopping in Miami on his way home, he befriends a middle-aged British couple, and comes to their rescue when they are mugged soon afterward. Shaken, they prevail on Peter's good nature, and he agrees to stay with them in Cheltenham while they prepare for their daughter's wedding. Peter soon becomes involved in helping save the reputation of the groom-to-be, a veterinary surgeon plagued by a series of mysterious equine deaths. Using his professional skills and sharp powers of observation (``The older man, noticeably top heavy . . . legs too short for his torso . . . sharp-eyed, pugnacious; a Rottweiler of a man'') Peter unravels a generations-spanning skein of murder, suicide, swindling and equine cruelty. No actual racing here but the Gold Cup locale is atmospheric and the medical background fascinating and informative, notably an emergency operation on a pregnant mare. And the smart, likable hero deserves more adventures from the master. Paperback rights to Fawcett. (Oct.)

YA-- A chance encounter leads Peter Darwin, a British Foreign Service officer newly posted back to England, to an involvement with the problems of a Gloucestershire vet who has lost several race horses during or after surgery. Francis's horse and racing trademarks are present here, as are his characters, who in this author's skilled hands, become as comfortable and familiar as members of one's family. The book conveys a strong sense of right and wrong, is fun to read, has an upbeat ending, and displays the same storytelling magic as always. It's a wonderful example of a book that bridges the gap between the YA and the adult novel. For horse lovers and armchair adventurers everywhere. --Pam Spencer, Thomas Jefferson Sci-Tech, Fairfax County, VA

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