Last But Not Least- A Review of Dick Francis' Last Novel, Crossfire
Dick Francis was the Queen of England's jockey for four seasons. When he retired from horse racing, he tried his hand at writing a novel about horse racing. It turned out that he had a talent, and he developed a large number of fans worldwide, including the Queen of England.
I've read many of Dick Francis' more than 40 novels. I always know that a Francis novel is going to be next to impossible to put down. In fact, I read Crossfire in one day. (It was the Reader's Digest Condensed Book version.) It was as good as all of his work.
Well, to be fair, Mr. Francis had a co-author on this book, his son, Felix. However, I could not see any substantial difference in style from his other novels that I've read. Perhaps his son brought in more current events, such as the main character, Tom Forsyth, being a Captain in the British Army, who served in Afghanistan. The story begins with his war injury, the loss of his foot, to an IED (improvised explosive device). Once released from the hospital, months later, Captain Forsyth returns to his childhood home and a frosty reception by his mother and step-father.
But here, the story really begins, because Forsyth quickly learns that his mother, a race horse trainer, has been defrauded and is being blackmailed. The Captain turns detective and starts to look into who is blackmailing his mother.
He finds himself kidnapped and left to die. He investigates the death of his mother's accountant. And he learns that he is in a very deadly game played by two men who appear to be upstanding citizens.
Horse racing is just the context of his mother's life. The real story is in the mystery of who is committing the fraud and blackmail.
As always, Francis knows how to tell a story. He knows how to make it very interesting without getting bogged down. In his more than 40 international best selling novels, he always develops the story line in believable and coherent ways.
In 1962, Francis published his first novel in 1962. The setting for that story, Dead Cert, was the world of horse racing. For the next 38 years he wrote a novel a year, missing only 1998 (when he published a short-story collection).
Dick Francis died in February 2010, just months before this novel was published. He will be missed by many, including myself. But, I still have many more of his novels to read, so he really hasn't left us.