former equestrian, I always have been enamored with Dick Francis
and his books. The plots always revolve around fast horses and
criminals with some sort of get-rich-quick scheme or revenge. DEAD
HEAT contains all of these elements but with a culinary twist. The
inclusion of Felix Francis, Dick's son, as his writing partner adds
freshness to the theme.
Max Moreton, head chef and owner of the Hay Net --- a fine dining
establishment and caterer in Newcastle that caters to the racing
set --- has his hands full. Actually, just when you think he has
had enough bad luck, more misfortune seems to find him. Not only
does a client die from food poisoning, which leads to the health
department closing their kitchen, but the event they are catering
at Newcastle Race Course is sidetracked when a bomb blows up a
section of the boxes.
What is next for Max and his culinary reputation? "Did someone
purposely poison the dinner due to some catering war? Surely not.
It just didn't make sense. But I was increasingly steadfast in the
knowledge that since I hadn't put the beans in that dinner, someone
else must have." Kidney bean lectin, caused by undercooked kidney
beans, is responsible for the poisoning that closes the Hay Net
temporarily. Who would purposely poison Moreton's clientele, and
why? Was there a tie-in to the explosion at Haymarket on the day of
a big race?
Moreton was to undergo even more abuse at the hands of the
culprits. There is an unfortunate incident involving his car, the
smell of burnt toast in his apartment and other inopportune events.
Also, there is romance and a good deal of humor. To me, one of the
very pleasant surprises is the addition of Felix Francis's writing
style and fresh point of view. Several times there are references
to his father's riding history, which is very nostalgic. Also,
having a different perspective adds another dimension to writing on
the subject of horses and horse-related topics. For example, there
is a section on polo, with information about the game, rules and
We also learn about violas and the meaning of music. "Playing a
musical score is like telling a story, using notes and harmonies
instead of letters and words. Music can evoke huge passion, and a
symphony should carry the listener through the full range of
emotions from anticipation and sadness and melancholy in the early
movements to delight and joy at the climax."
Says Moreton: "Why had I thought that the key to everything would
be the names of those invited but not present in the bombed box?
What could polo possibly have to do with the bombing of the
Newmarket racetrack? I don't know for sure that it did, but polo
was undeniably a connection between some of the victims of the bomb
and someone else who hadn't been, although they had been expected
All in all, DEAD HEAT is one of the more refreshing Francis works
of art. There are many twists and turns, some real and others
imagined. This is a quick read that will hold your interest, inform
and delight you.
Reviewed by Marge Fletcher on December 29, 2010