FELIX Francis’s latest novel revolves around the sometimes stratospherically high prices paid for Thoroughbreds at auction.
Francis convinces us that those prices, which can go up to the millions, and are even more risky than betting on horse races. Felix cites in the Forward that Al Maktoum paid $10.3 million for a yearling in 1983, or over thirty million today, and the horse was “embarrassingly slow,” and merely went to stud, where it had fertility problems. Francis says, “That’s what I call gambling!”
Enter Theo Jennings, a young auctioneer for a Newmarket concern. He’s smart, cheeky and brave, called by a character in the book, a combination of “James Bond and Sherlock Holmes.” Theo overhears a conversation between two potential bidders for a well-bred colt in the men’s room. Overhearing that conversation embroils Theo in plot of murder, malfeasance against a horse, and threats to his own life.
Theo has his allies in the form of two workers at his company, one of which is gay. Francis handles the topic in a way that updates the Francis novels as being modern.
The action is fast-paced, moving from towns in England to Ireland to track down the perpetrators. In between are fantastic bits of information about horses, their breeding, veterinary care, racing and much more.
Felix Francis took over solo writing in 2011 with Gamble, after his famous father/jockey/writer Dick Francis died. Felix had for years helped with the Dick Francis books with technical information on scienc and other technical issues, since he had taught physics for years. Felix co-wrote books with Dick after Dick’s wife Mary died. No Reserve, billed as a Dick Francis novel, is Felix’s best solo novel to date, a triumph!