A former steeplechase jockey for the Queen of England, Dick Francis
is no novice to the equestrian world. Nor is he a stranger to
physical injury. "I had created a reputation among the racing
villainy that Sid Halley would not be put off by such a bit of
violence to his body. Such a reputation takes a while to establish,
and, unfortunately, quite a few had already tried the direct
Sid Halley is surely not your ordinary hero. With a prosthetic arm,
a mild yet inquisitive manner and a nose for danger, this former
steeplechase jockey is a superb private investigator. As a guest of
his former father-in-law, Halley attends the Cheltenham Gold Cup
and visits Lord Enstone's private box. An owner of several
well-bred and well-trained steeple chasers, Enstone retains Halley
to investigate why his horses are not winning.
When Enstone's trainer is shot at the track, another man collapses
in the stands and a horse dies just after winning a race, UNDER
ORDERS begins to get interesting. Dick Francis weaves a tale of
intrigue, focusing on the world of horse racing and the high stakes
at hand. It is unique in that Francis's main character uses
assistive technology such as a hands-free car phone, as well as an
office computer, digital camera and telephone answering machine. An
Internet gambling site, make-a-wager.com, is also featured. These
innovations are integral to the plot and, as Emeril would say,
"kick it up a notch."
"Jonny Enstone had asked me to investigate the running of his
horses. The obvious place to start was to interview his jockey and
trainer. But, now one of them had been murdered and the other had
been locked up on suspicion of having done it, and all before I
could ask them the relevant questions."
Violence has followed Sid Halley throughout his career as a private
investigator. "I remember the paralyzing fear, the absolute dread
of losing a second hand. I remember the utter collapse it had
caused in me. I remember the struggle it had taken to rebuild my
life, the willpower required to face another day." Those working
with Halley, related to him or dating him were not spared violence
I long have been a fan of Dick Francis and his mysteries. His
down-to-earth style and great knowledge of his subject make his
books interesting as well as fast moving.
We visit the exciting and enterprising world of Internet gambling.
Not only can you wager on sporting events, you also can bet against
one another. Computer records of these offshore Internet gambling
sites are themselves controlled by the websites! "With the right
results and a creative approach to the digital paperwork,
make-a-wager.com could become make-a-fortune.com. So it always
comes back to fixing the races." Add to this equation that one of
the principal characters is a founder of make-a-wager.com, and
we're off to the races.
Reviewed by Marge Fletcher on January 24, 2011