Putnam's Sons, Sep
Reviewed by Joy
Mystery, Contemporary England
Ned Talbot is a glum racetrack bookie with nothing in his daily round to
get excited about. Worry, that's another matter. His wife is in a mental
hospital. So the introduction into his life of a man who claims to be his
supposedly-long-dead father is hardly a welcome complication.
The ambush stabbing of Ned's dad is the trigger. Within days Ned is being
harassed by two different parties who want something from his dad's
belongings. Ned has also been beaten up by thugs sent by a rival
bookmaking chain, interfered with by crucial power outages during pre-race
betting, and suspected by a police Chief Inspector who is prejudiced
against bookies. During all this, he is trying to stay calm and support
his wife Sophie in her progress toward mental stability.
When Sophie becomes capable of personal relationship again, that's where
EVEN MONEY acquires heart. Ned has been in an interesting dilemma, making
admirable attempts to sort it out, but not giving readers any particular
reason to like him. His assistant Luca, also, has been pretty much
one-dimensional. As the secrets come out, Ned and his associates become
well worth the time it took to know them.
Dick Francis's decades of plots usually involve clever ploys, and they
have not lost their edge in EVEN MONEY. While slower to gather steam than
DEAD HEAT, EVEN MONEY ended up pleasing me just as much. And look for the
slam-bang revenge(s) at the end.
The long-popular books of Dick Francis, with the addition of his son Felix
to the team, have nearly recovered from the regretted death of Dick's wife
and collaborator. With EVEN MONEY they are now only slightly lower in
emotional depth. When it comes time for Felix to take over the franchise I
will gladly give his books a chance.
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