There was a time when a new Dick Francis mystery was a cause for celebration. Readers knew they would get an exciting fast-paced novel with a likable hero, and, quite often learn something new about wine-making or art. Unfortunately, Francis' latest book, written with his son, Felix, Even Money, is uninspiring and dull.
On the first day of Ascot, Ned Talbot, a bookie, meets a man who claims to be his father, Peter. But Ned had lived with his grandfather since he was one, when he'd been told his father and mother had died in a car crash. Now, thirty-six years later, he's suspicious when a stranger claims to have been living in Australia, but identifies himself as his father. Poor Ned is shocked even more when he and Peter are attacked in the parking lot, and the man who leaves Peter for dead had demanded "the money." For some reason, Ned feels he needs to keep that story from the police when they show up to investigate.
Ned's life is now even more complicated. A bookie's life is never easy, although there have been some recent incidents at the track when the Internet and cell phones went down, and he and his team were able to make a little money. But, the big bookmaking companies aren't happy, and they feel as if some small bookies know what's going on. In addition, Ned's wife, Sophie, a manic-depressive, is hospitalized, hoping to be released. His work and personal life are complicated enough, without adding an investigation into the background of the dead man, who might have been a little shady.
Instead of providing the reader with an interesting new background for the hero, Francis gives so much detail about bookmaking and RFID chips in horses that the book is slow-moving and dull. Ned is not even a very sympathetic character. His motives never seemed very heroic in this book. Instead, he seemed to be motivated by revenge and money.
I doubt that I'll be picking up another book by Dick Francis. Even Money was too lacking. It lacked an exciting plot and an interesting hero. It lacks suspense. I'm afraid it's also going to be lacking in reading interest for many of Francis' past readers.
The website for Dick Francis and Felix Francis is www.dickfrancis.com.
Even Money by Dick Francis & Felix Francis. Penguin Press (USA), ©2009. ISBN 978-0399155918 (hardcover), 368p.