BOOK REVIEW: Refusal by Felix Francis

TAKING over the reins from his famous father was never going to be an easy ride for Felix Francis, but three books down he is hitting his stride and proving an odds-on favourite with crime thriller fans.

Thursday, 12th September 2013, 10:00 am
Refusal by Felix Francis

Going solo seems to be no obstacle for the younger son of Dick Francis, the legendary author of a stableful of racing whodunits. In fact, Francis Jnr, who trained as a physicist and taught A-level physics for 17 years, is turning out to be the family’s dark horse.

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

Refusal follows hard on the heels of Bloodline and Gamble, both set in the world of racing and both written with the famous Francis flair and style, but here he re-introduces Sid Halley, the irrepressible former jockey and private detective who took centre stage in four of his father’s novels.

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And it’s pleasing to report that Sid’s rebirth is a seamless transition from his outings in Odds Against, Whip Hand, Come to Grief and Under Orders which were penned by Francis Snr over several decades.

Sid Halley gave up the investigating business six years ago but he has not been idle. It has been six years of building up a moderately successful business as an investment adviser and six years of stress-free living.

He is happily settled in the rural tranquillity of the Oxfordshire countryside with his second wife Marina, a medical researcher, and his six-year-old daughter Sassy and that’s the way Marina likes it. Nothing could persuade Sid to go back to being a PI… or could it?

When Sir Richard Stewart, chairman of the horse racing authority, pays a visit and asks Sid to look into some suspicious race results, he has to admit that his interest is aroused.

Sir Richard is convinced that someone is beating the system and Sid who can ‘find out more with his eyes closed than the whole of the Met Police with theirs open’ is the man to dig out the truth.

Sid, however, is on the straight and narrow and feels obliged to turn him down. Everything changes the next day when Sir Richard is found dead and Sid receives a threatening call from a man with a strong Northern Irish accent.

The man insists that Sid should investigate the alleged race-fixing but again Sid shies away from getting involved. It is only when Sassy goes missing that Sid realises that he could pay the ultimate price for his refusal. With his life in tatters and his family in mortal danger, Sid is finally forced to act. Extreme situations demand extreme solutions and Sid is desperate to get his life back, or die trying...

Sid’s encore was an inspired move by Francis… the fearless, fast-thinking, one-armed ex-jockey, who was always wont to chomp recklessly at the bit when it came to solving crime, has the added dimension of a wife and child in tow, adding new depth and diversion to his hard-nosed character.

Refusal delivers a terrifyingly ruthless enemy, some spine-tingling suspense and a complex, satisfying story with plenty of plot threads to keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Another excellent run-out for the new racing raconteur…

(Michael Joseph, hardback, £18.99)