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SILKS
by Dick Francis and Felix Francis
Michael Joseph, September 2008
400 pages
18.99 GBP
ISBN: 0718154576


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

You know exactly what you're going to get with a Dick Francis book a sure-fire page-turner featuring a stiff upper-lip chap who'll find himself a decent woman at some stage during the book, a clutch of nasty bits of work with violence on their mind, and some link to horse racing.

And yes, we get this with SILKS, the second collaboration between the former jockey and his son Felix. The extra angle this time out is the legal profession, as main character Geoffrey Mason is a barrister, as well as an amateur jockey.

We first meet him after he's defended an objectionable young thug by the name of Julian Trent, who's sentenced to eight years in prison. That doesn't seem anything like enough but Mason's and Trent's paths cross long before that time is up.

And our hero also finds himself reluctantly combining his two careers when a jockey is found murdered with a pitchfork through his chest, and another rider is arrested for the crime. Mason doesn't want to get involved, but he's soon up to his neck in trouble.

SILKS is an odd sort of book. As per usual, I galloped through it in an afternoon and evening without wanting to put it down. But when I finished it, I felt vaguely unsatisfied. And I think the reason for that unusually for Francis is the characterisation.

In the past he's presented us with the everyman figure, a chap who just wants a quiet life but finds reserves of strength to do the right thing. Despite Mason having the legal training, the problem with SILKS is that he doesn't do the right thing early on in the book, and that pretty much renders what comes after fairly implausible.

The supporting cast are thin as well. Francis is usually good on cameo roles, including his villains (who, after years of weird and wonderful names, seem to be named pretty sanely now). But none of the characters in SILKS really stuck in my mind, with the exception of Mason's father (there are some nice little exchanges between bemused dad and his enigmatic son).

The plotting does look up towards the end of the book, although one thread is immensely obvious. But Francis father and son do redeem themselves on the last page with an ending that sets up some intriguing ethical musings.

I'm always overjoyed to see a new Dick Francis novel, and would happily read his shopping list. But while SILKS canters along nicely, it isn't one of his best.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, September 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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