EVEN MONEY
Dick Francis & Felix Francis

 


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Putnam's Sons, Sep 2009
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

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.

Sep 2009

 

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