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The reliable Francis ( Straight ) delivers again, this time in a thriller featuring young author John Kendall. Kendall writes survival manuals for an adventure-travel agency, but has taken time off to pen a novel. When money runs thin, he agrees to write the biography of famed horse trainer Tremayne Vickers. Leaving London for Vickers's Berkshire home, Kendall arrives as one of Vickers's two principal riders is acquitted of murdering a young woman with whom he'd quarreled. However, members of Vickers's entourage, including sons Gareth and Perkin and Perkin's wife, Mackie, suggest the hot-tempered jockey had some part in the death. Kendall fits easily into the household, conducting research, taking notes, even cooking and working horses; then the body of a missing stablegirl is found in the woods. As Kendall's research continues, his riding skills improve and he is taken into Vickers's confidence, the intrepid writer finds himself under attack. Horses, danger, betrayal and doing the right thing--expected components of a vintage Francis yarn--permeate a plot presented with authority and verve. Paperback rights to Fawcett. ( Oct.)

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