When retired steeplechase jockey and prolific mystery writer Dick Francis passed away in 2010
, many felt a huge void was left in the publishing business. However his youngest son Felix
, who co-authored Dick's last four books and assisted in the research for many of his father's earlier solo works, kicked off his solo writing career with the critically acclaimed Gamble
in 2011. Following up on that successful effort in the 50th anniversary year of his father's first novel (Dead Cert
), Felix Francis is back with Bloodline
. Felix is a former high school physics teacher who has left the profession to work as an author full time.
Bloodline is highly recommended to all fans of racing fiction and mysteries, especially fans of Dick Francis, who will agree that his son has successfully carried on his family's tradition.
The Francis winning formula
Felix Francis successfully combines all the things that made his father's novels so compelling: a clever multi-layered mystery, pulse-pounding pacing, and an intriguing racing backdrop. The hero in Bloodline
is Mark Shillingford, a track announcer and TV personality whose twin sister Clare is a jockey. Mark wanted to be a rider himself but grew too tall for the job, so he stayed involved in the racing business in the broadcast booth. Calling a one mile maiden race at Lingfield Park
, he sees his sister lose a race in a tight photo aboard a heavy favorite, and, being very familiar with her riding style, he recognizes immediately on the replay that she intentionally lost. After confronting her about the questionable and highly illegal ride, she admits she had done it before and storms out. Hours later she falls to her death from a London hotel balcony, which is ruled a suicide by the police. Mark does not believe it, and sets out to investigate the events that led to the fixed race and to his sister's death.
Mark uncovers a web of betrayal and blackmail among people in the racing community, and soon finds himself as an assassination target as he gets closer to the truth. The reader not only enjoys a thrilling mystery but also gets a look into the way horse racing is broadcast, with detailed narratives of how a racing TV network juggles together the "pre-game" handicapping shows, numerous live races from across the country, and human-interest stories into an apparently seamless production as seen by the viewer at home.
Comparison to past Francis works
Readers of the last few books by both father and son, which tended to be rather lengthy, may appreciate this shorter work which is much faster paced and more in line with Dick Francis's earlier works, which readers could finish in a matter of hours rather than days. Felix does put his own stamp on the project and, in contrast with his father, he has toned down the violence somewhat and replaced the once detailed, graphic descriptions of pain and suffering with an increase in sexual content. In addition, Felix chose a different job for the hero; interestingly Dick never once used a racing media personality as his hero, despite the prominent role they play in the public eye.
Felix Francis, true to his father's winning formula, sticks with the familiar - a first person narrative with an amateur central character dragged into a crime scene and having to solve it all himself, with horse racing playing a major role in the setting. Those who have never read a Dick Francis mystery can also enjoy Bloodline as an introduction to the Francis formula, and very likely will be encouraged to read more works by both father and son.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy