Bookmakers beware: Dick Francis and Felix Francis are providing
lots of inside information about your operations. There is even a
chart of bookmakers’ odds as used on British racecourses.
This dynamic writing team has hit the big money yet again with
their latest quick-paced read.
“I pulled my wallet out of my trouser pocket and extracted
the creased picture of my parents taken at Blackpool. All my life I
had looked at that picture and longed to be able to be with my
father. It was his image that had dominated my existence rather
than that of my mother.” Ned Talbot does things the old way,
the honest way. He isn’t one of the “big boys” in
bookmaking; he works hard and makes enough money to lead an average
But one average day at the Royal Ascot, things change for Ned.
His past comes back to haunt him in very real ways. The
reappearance of his father, Peter, starts a series of events in
which Ned’s life is taken very far afield from his everyday
existence. His father has secrets, each of which will put
Ned’s life in jeopardy. Every family has secrets, but in
Ned’s, they are certainly stranger and deadlier.
Where there is money to be made, and temptations reign, there
will be murder and corruption, at least in Dick and Felix Francis
mysteries. These are always fun reads, whether you are
knowledgeable in racing terminology or a novice. In EVEN MONEY, we
are schooled on “ringers,” horses that are replaced by
inferior ones. The substituted horses will pay better at higher
odds since they are expected to lose. “But running a ringer
has always been more difficult than most people believe, especially
from a large, well-established training stable, and not only
because horse identification has become more sophisticated with the
introduction of the RFID chips.” If someone were able to
recode the chips with a new number, any horse could have the number
assigned to any other horse. It would turn horseracing on its ear.
Another reason to substitute good runners for bad ones is to
collect insurance money when foul play is afoot.
The main theme in EVEN MONEY is the murder of Ned’s father
on the very day they met. The events that follow answer many
questions about the kind of man Peter was. The secondary theme
involves British racing and bookmaking, and its evolution. It is an
ever-evolving science, one that has great potential for corruption
and profit. Hence, the reputation of most “bookies” or
bookmakers is not the highest. When you take these themes and put
them together, you are left with a tightly knit plot. Horseracing
is a complex business where profit is foremost. When combined with
unscrupulous people, there can be evil results. All in all, this is
one of the best Dick Francis novels of his 45 efforts, and the
third with his youngest son, Felix.
Reviewed by Marge Fletcher on January 21, 2011