This was not one of my favorite Dick Francis novels and it tool me awhile to sort out why. It certainly had all the right components in the protagonist, Tor Kelsey. Orphaned (sort of): check. Average guy with above average talents: check. Instalove with slow build up: check. Clever bad guy: check. Even more clever good guy: check.. So what was missing? For me, it was the lack of a relationship between Tor and the bad guy.
Julius Apollo Filmer (bad guy) doesn't even know Tor exists. Tor works for the Jockey Club as a sort of "invisibles man" who effortlessly wanders race courses in disguise, looking for people breaking the rules. No one knows he exists and the lawbreakers are always stunned when they get caught. Filmer is good at getting other owners to turn their horses over to him. The owners are afraid to tell the Jockey Club why. One owner kills himself, a stable lad who hints at knowing what Filmer is doing turns up dead.
When Filmer joins a Canadian train trip for racehorse owners, the Canadian Jockey Club decides to employ Tor to thwart whatever Filmer is planning. In addition to three horse races along the route, there is also a mystery being played out during the ride. Remember when those staged mysteries were popular? The book was a lot of fun but there was very little tension, as Filmer didn't know of Tor's existence, so he was really never at risk. I generally enjoy Francis' s ability to write an interesting nemesis for our hero to take down, but this one was a little too removed for my taste. It's like if someone tells you about something horrific that happened to a friend of a friend of a friend...just a little too far removed to really kick you in the gut (or maybe that's me being cold blooded). Anyway, not quite enough bang for my buck here.