Book review: Damage by Felix Francis

Hold onto your hats… Felix Francis is back in the saddle and ready to take us over the jumps.

By Pam Norfolk
Thursday, 11th September 2014, 10:00 am
Damage by Felix Francis
Damage by Felix Francis

Since the death of his father, the legendary jockey and thriller writer Dick Francis, Francis Junior has been riding solo and winning an army of new fans.

After becoming his father’s manager and collaborating with him on four books before Dick died in 2010, Felix took up the full mantle of novel writing and has been on a winning run ever since.

In fact, Felix Francis, who trained as a physicist and taught A-level physics for 17 years, is turning out to be the family’s dark horse.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

In Damage, his fourth thriller set in the tough, cut-throat world of horseracing, Francis takes off at a gallop for a gripping, all-action tale of murder, greed, deception and doping.

It’s Champion Hurdle Day at Cheltenham and Jeff Hinkley, an undercover investigator for the British Horseracing Authority, is on the look-out for one man in a crowd of over 50,000 racegoers.

As the first race gets underway, Hinkley spots his quarry, disgraced former racehorse trainer Matthew Unwin who was banned from training and all racecourses and stables after a doping scandal at his yard several years ago.

But as he is tailing Unwin through the grounds, the last thing he expects to witness is a gruesome murder. In a split second, Unwin walks up to bookmaker Jordan Furness, takes out a knife and slits his throat.

Could it have something to do with the reason the trainer was banned in the first place… administering illegal drugs to his horses? Unwin had always declared his innocence but could never provide evidence to back up his case.

Days later, it’s discovered that almost every horse at Cheltenham has tested positive for prohibited stimulants, a scandal that could damage horseracing irreparably. Shortly after, the British Horseracing Authority receives a demand for £5m… pay up or face the consequences.

To limit the harm to the sport, it’s critical that Hinkley finds the blackmailer as quickly as possible and traces any possible link to the bookie’s murder.

But Hinkley, distracted by his sister’s ongoing battle against cancer, is up against a ruthless opponent who will stop at nothing to win a deadly battle…

Taking over the reins from his famous father was never going to be an easy ride for Felix Francis but Damage, a cracking read full of red herrings and fine fillies, proves he is not only hitting his stride but proving himself a master storyteller with the family flair for racing whodunits.

A dead cert for crime lovers…

(Michael Joseph, hardback, £18.99)