Author: Dick Francis with Felix Francis
Publisher: Pan Books [original edition 2008, this edition 2009]
Length: 400 pages
Setting: England, present day
Genre: Amateur sleuth
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
My rating: 3.5/5
One-liner: A quick, well-plotted tale with a satisfying ending though few surprises.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Geoffrey ‘Perry’ Mason is a professional barrister and amateur jockey and these pass times meet when a leading jockey he knows, Steve Mitchell, is accused of killing another jockey. A former client of Mason’s threatens that if he doesn’t take Mitchell’s case and lose his own family will suffer. Mason is torn between doing what he knows is right and doing what will bring him peace in his life.
Usually when I pick up a new book I do so anticipating an interesting experience: new characters to meet, places to visit, ideas to contemplate. Occasionally though I am in the mood for the literary equivalent of comfort food and for me that means reaching for one of ‘my’ authors who write to a formula I enjoy. Few do that better than Dick Francis. His books are all variations on the theme of a central male character somehow related to the world of horses who gets into trouble not of his own making that can only be overcome by heroism of the stiff upper lip variety. This is the 41st Dick Francis book I’ve read and I can’t honestly say it’s much different from any of the others. But then, today anyway, I’d have been disappointed if it had been.
Silks is the second book co-authored by Francis’ younger son Felix (Francis is 89 now) and is much better than the first, Dead Heat, which I read last year. Unlike that one, which never felt terribly credible and had plot holes you could drive a lorry through, Silks was quite believable. The fear which people were able to induce in perfectly ordinary citizens so that they would lie and do other things against their nature felt very genuine and I was thoroughly engaged in finding out how our hero would ensure justice prevailed in the end (which of course I knew it would).
For all the lightness and frothiness of Francis’ books he does have a great ability to depict real human behaviour and it was interesting to watch how various people coped with the violent intimidation that was prevalent throughout the story. Mason’s growth into the sort of person who could stand up to quite horrifying scare tactics was also well done.
Silks is one of those books that delivers exactly what you expect and sometimes that’s enough to qualify as a satisfying read. Francis fans will enjoy the book while new readers could do worse than start with this one.