From the opening line of the main character, Nicholas "Foxy" Foxton, "I was standing right next to Herb Kovak when he was murdered," to the book's closing line (which I will leave out for the reader to discover), DICK FRANCIS'S GAMBLE is chock full of suspense and intrigue. Regardless of whether you have read all of Dick Francis's mysteries or the collaborative work of Dick and his son, Felix, be prepared to spend some time with this solo effort from Felix. I could not put it down.
"Nick is completely taken aback when he puts the pieces of the puzzle together and discovers who is after him."
Nick understands tragedy and chances that change one's life. He was a top-notch jockey whose career ended when the horse he was riding in the last race of the day stumbled and went down. The fall broke his neck and changed his career course. Even though he recovered, he was considered too much of a risk by the horse racing authorities to continue being a jockey. A degree in economics and government lands Nick his next career. He is an independent financial planner who works for the firm of Lyall & Black in London. He has his own clients from the horse racing business, yet helps one of the partners in the firm.
The aforementioned death of Herb Kovak has created quite a stir in their financial firm, as Herb was a colleague. Nick had picked him up to go the horse races on the day of the murder. Herb's blue cashmere coat, left in Nick's car with a disconcerting note in the pocket, hints at a potential threat. When Nick is named as beneficiary of Herb's estate, he gains access to bank accounts, credit cards and financial affairs. Will clues be found to explain the untimely death? Nick does discover that Herb was involved in an Internet gambling business with American clients, including fake names. Could this business be a motive for murder? Was Herb even the intended target?
One of Nick's jockey clients asks for all of his invested money back. While visiting the racetrack to see clients and watch the horse racing, Colonel Roberts, the younger son of an Earl, approaches Nick about some questionable investments that Lyall & Black recommended. Someone attempts to murder the jockey client. Nick is considered a suspect and is held for a short time. His life seems in disarray. Even his long-term girlfriend, Claudia, is quiet and distant. As he pursues information about the investments, he is shot at. When the Colonel ends up dead, Nick does not believe that it was a heart attack that ended his life.
Nick and his girlfriend hide out at his mother's house until an intruder breaks in, tries to kill him and ends up dead. Who is behind the attempted murder and for what reason? Nick is completely taken aback when he puts the pieces of the puzzle together and discovers who is after him.
As is usual in a Dick Francis mystery, there are plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing who and why. I am happy to report that Felix carries on in this fine tradition. My immediate and extended families read and talk about Dick Francis whenever we get together and exchange books --- one of us always has his latest hardcover or paperback mystery. And it doesn't matter if we have already read the book once; we will reread and discuss the fine points of the story, character and subplots. Thus we welcome Felix Francis into our fold, and look forward to the mysteries that we all have come to love, enjoy and share.
Reviewed by Jennifer McCord on July 26, 2011