Stalking Horse by
pbk out November 04
John Francome must be tired of endlessly being compared with Dick
Francis, though the implied accolade can do no harm to his royalties. There
is no doubt about the similarity between their books, though in the
constricted confines of horse racing, the number of story-lines must of
necessity be limited. The most common ingredients are either a discredited,
injured, blackmailed or alcoholic jockey, a disgruntled or crooked trainer or
owner, a beautiful owner's wife or a comely stable-maid and a rival, jealous
Stir well and cook for three hundred pages to get a lively yarn.
In Stalking Horse, the lead character is Josh Swallow, a successful jockey in
the last season of his career, desperate to ride enough winners to get him the
title of Champion, the ultimate honour which has always eluded him.
His rival is Ben O'Brien, just ahead of him on points. Josh's campaign to
close the gap is hampered by his personal problems. He had had an affair
with Annabelle, the wayward wife of Leo, a trainer who used to put a lot of
work Josh's way, until he discovered the liaison. Now Josh is in love with
Susie, who has her own dark secret, which is discovered by a female stalker,
who is obsessed with Josh. Exit Annabelle, forty foot down from the
balcony of Josh's London flat and enter the police and coroner.
Can't say any more or I'll blow the plot, but you can enjoy this book 'on two
levels' as the posh critics say - either as a good thriller or as an expert's
account of many a race 'over the sticks', for those who are steeplechase fans.
Francome's latest book is a good read, a straight-down-the-middle tale
which is refreshingly free from the normally obligatory foul language and
coital imagery - the sort of book my mother could read without being
embarrassed, a commercial point that many authors seem to forget, given
that the majority of public library borrowers are of an age not to have been
brought up on the f-word.
ex Home Office Pathologist and author of the highly acclaimed Crowner John series)