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Hands Down

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His marriage, on the other hand (pun intended), isn't working quite so well; in fact, his wife Marina has taken their nine-year-old daughter, Saskia, with her to stay with her elderly parents - in part because her father is dying and in part because she needs to get away for a while. But when he learns that his friend's stables have burned down and he's presumed dead, Sid feels he has no choice but to get involved. Felix Francis is showing himself a worthy successor to his father (though some say it was Mom Francis that really wrote for Dick) once again in this Sid Halley mystery that goes into the weeds on betting on and throwing steeplechase horseraces in England and Scotland. This was an engaging read, full of suspense, fast paced, gripping, looking at the underbelly of the racing world, but how are these masterminds controlling things without being caught? I decided to make reading her entire collection a part of my reading challenge for the next couple of years (she has a HUGE collection), as well as a way to pay tribute to my mum, who was such a voracious reader.

Hands Down is pure storytelling, wonderfully written, which had me hooked from the opening pages, it is a read which you need to know what is going to happen next and in which direction is the author going to take. At that point - with no resolution of the situation between he and his wife - Sid sets off to investigate what appears to be corruption at the track that involves "dirty" agents, blackmail and race fixing. The bad-guy agents place their bets and rake in the pounds, but somehow the holds they have over their jockeys and trainers never lesson. However, the very next morning, Gary’s stable yard is torched, horses killed, and Gary has disappeared.

Suffice it to say the story held me captive for a few good hours - well written with plenty of action. Sid Halley is back and he has a new left hand having had a transplant since his last appearance in Refusal. Suffice to say it’s a great read, with a good insight into the hard life of an up and coming jockey.

And he's married to his beloved Marina and has a nine-year-old daughter named Saskia who is the center of his existence. Watching the news the following day, he sees that Bremner’s horse barn has gone up in flames, and several horses have been killed, including, perhaps, Bremner.

It takes the two of them and a brave young jockey to finally settle the matter, but not without some bodily harm. This outing is filled with extensive descriptions and the historical background of anything that gets mentioned. His marriage in on the rocks and despite giving up investigating, he's drawn into another mystery when one of his friend's stables is burnt down.

This one gallops apace, the excellent Chico Barnes makes an appearance too and I simply raced through it and couldn’t put it down.I did feel this entry in the series was maybe a trifle more scattered and difficult to follow than most of the others. While I felt that the story started slowly and presented a more introspective Sid than that of earlier stories, the pace did pick up and engaged me in Sid's adventures. Instead he landed in the private investigation business, in hot pursuit of the miscreants of the British horse racing world that he can’t stop being a part of. Could it really be the case that someone was trying to manipulate all of British racing for their own greedy ends? The pace is fast which for me I know is always a winner, the characters are well drawn, they are believable, three dimensional, I like the camaraderie between Sid’s ex Father in law Charles and Sis, and also his relationship with his friend Chico who is there for him when he needs help.

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