by Francis, Felix

When a mysterious fire at a stable kills six thoroughbred horses as well as a human being that no one can account for, Harrison Foster investigates the Chadwick Family, a dysfunctional horse racing dynasty.

Felix Francis, a graduate of London University, is an accomplished outdoorsman, marksman, and pilot who has assisted with the research of many of his father's novels. The coauthor and author of numerous Dick Francis novels, most recently Pulse, he lives in England.

*Starred Review* Felix Francis has a string of winning equestrian mysteries, including his latest, which continues the run he began by coauthoring four novels with his father, Dick Francis, the late champion steeplechase jockey turned award-winning mystery writer, who died in 2010. This time out, Francis improvises to great effect on the theme introduced by Robert Heinlein in Stranger in a Strange Land (1961); here, though, the strange land is the intricate world of caring for, breeding, running, and trading valuable Thoroughbreds. When the favorite for the British Epsom Derby, Prince of Troy, is destroyed in a stable fire, Harry Foster, legal consultant specializing in crisis management for a London firm, is called to Newmarket to investigate, despite his knowing nothing-and caring less-about horses. It's fascinating to watch Harry, whose lack of horse knowledge is offset by his expertise in handling crises, dig into the workings of the family who own the stables and have long dominated British horse racing. When the remains of a human body are discovered in the stables, the mystery expands into examining family conflicts and years of exploiting and mistreating stable workers. As the investigation grows more and more intense, readers will appreciate the wealth of fascinating facts Francis' hero learns (for example, all horses in the Northern Hemisphere have their birthday on January 1, no matter when they were actually born). Another trip to the winner's circle for the talented Francis. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Francis' latest attempt to find a new approach to skulduggery in the world of horse racing revolves around a hero who'd rather be anywhere else than solving a surprisingly old-fashioned whodunit. "I know nothing about horse racing," Harrison Foster announces on Page 1. But that doesn't matter to Sheikh Ahmed Karim bin Mohamed Al Hamadi, a client of Simpson White Consultancy, the crisis-management firm Harry works for. A fire at Newmarket's Castleton House Stables has taken the lives of seven horses, one of them Prince of Troy, the prohibitive Derby favorite Sheikh Karim had owned, and the wealthy client wants to learn everything he can about how the fire got started. Ignoring his asthma and his antipathy to horses, Harry travels to Newmarket, where he interviews Oliver Chadwick, the patriarch of Castleton House, and his sons, Declan and Tony. Chadwick's only daughter, Zoe, isn't available to speak to Harry because, as it turns out, she was also in the stable that caught fire. Bypassing cautious Superintendent Bennett and DCI Eastwood, who want to tread softly till they've ruled out the possibility that the blaze was accidental, Harry resolves to dig deeper, and a good thing too. Soon enough, Declan, arrested for Zoe's murder, engages a dazed Harry as his attorney, and his wife, Arabella, hangs herself after leaving behind a cryptic note: "It will all come out. I can't stand the shame." The adventures that await Harry range from his sudden romance with auctioneer Kate Williams to the fulfillment of his worst nightmare when he's locked in a dark barn with a very unstable horse before he plucks the culprit from the depths of the deeply dysfunctional Chadwick family. Even if all the leading suspects are so despicable that it's hard to generate much interest in which of them is guilty of murder, Francis (Pulse, 2017, etc.) continues to work unexpected and welcome changes on the racing franchise he inherited from his father. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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