Saturday, January 29, 2011

Flying Finish: Review

Flying Finish is an aptly named mystery by Dick Francis. Published in 1966, I picked this one out for the Birth Year Challenge: Time Machine Version. I've read a couple of other Dick Francis books in the past, but I can't say that his mysteries really stick with me. This one will probably wind up going straight out my memory as well. It's a decently told story with a fairly interesting main character. But I can't say that Francis has ever sold me on his horse racing stories. I think perhaps if they were much more centered on the track and the actual horse racing, then he might do a better job of pulling me in. Every book I've read so far has dealt with some peripheral portion of the horse racing world. This one is no different.

Henry Grey, his main character, has been told that he has a bad disposition. His sister thinks so and so do his co-workers. Henry becomes convinced that all he needs is a new job; he's just tired of riding a desk all day. The only riding he really enjoys is as a part-time, amateur jockey. However, instead of trying his luck as a professional racer, he takes a job air transporting race horses and brood mares. He sees it as a way to get out of his rut and see a bit of the world...and maybe a way to change his fortune, if not his disposition. Things change all right...but how lucky is it when you find out that the planes are carrying more than horses? And your employer would rather you not know.

This is a fast-paced read. There's a bit of excitement in the final chapters...but no real mystery. The best part of the story--Henry's attachment to an Italian girl named Gabriella is interrupted (perhaps fatally) and the reader is left guessing at the outcome. Quite honestly, we could have skipped the "mystery" and gone with the human interest story and romance and I think it would have been a much better book. And, remember, this is a die-hard mystery fan talking here. Three stars--solid story-telling, but could have been better.


Yvette said...

Bev, I love Dick Francis. I've read all his books, some more than once. For me, he can do no wrong. I'm that way about my favorites - blind with devotion. Ha! I don't mind at all that Francis didn't concentrate on the racetrack although, in truth, most people who don't read him, think he wrote ONLY about the racetrack.

Have you read DECIDER? or TO THE HILT? Those are two of my favorites. Have you read any of the early Sid Halley books? Love them. The Halley books have more to do with the racetrack side of things since Halley is an ex-jockey who lost the use of one hand (can't remember which) when his horse fell on him during a race. (I think there are only three or four Halley books, unfortunately. Two of them were Edgar winners.)

I quibble with you a bit about FLYING FINISH.
If I'm remembering correctly, FF has the most exciting scene - the one where they're transporting a horse who, unknown to Henry Grey, has been doped. Talk about intense. It never occurred to me to wonder what would happen if a large unmanageable animal got loose in a small plane. Now I know.

These books are mainly thrillers, rather than mysteries, I think. So you do, sometimes, know who the bad guy is. For me, the excitement is all about seeing how the good guy will find a way out of the mess he's in.

Bev Hankins said...

Yes, you're remembering right about the least he does go a bit crazy. No mention of doping...just sometimes the horses don't do well flying and get anxious. Most can be calmed down...this one couldn't.

I read To the Hilt (at least it's on my list of read books)...but like I said, Dick Francis books don't stick with me. I have no idea what it's about.

I can understand your devotion to your favorites...I'm the same with mine. Unfortunately, I cannot say that Dick Francis is one of mine. And with three or four of his books under my belt, I don't see that changing.

Yvette said...

Bev, my memory is that the horse had something wrong with it, something out of the ordinary. I do remember that scene because for me, it was thrilling. So vividly written. The idiot bad guy with gun unable to shoot for fear of downing the plane. Henry having to take the action he did. Something completely different from anything I'd ever read before.

TO THE HILT was about the Scottish artist who painted golf courses as a metaphor for life. I read this a few years ago, then went out to Barnes and Noble and bought every Dick Francis I could get my hands on.

But then this is why Emerson was right when he said that no two people read the same book. :)

One of my prize possessions is a letter I received from Dick Francis thanking me for a tribute I'd written for mysteryinkonline. He was a helluva guy.

J.G. said...

Mysteries aren't usually my thing, but I have read a few Francis books and he definitely gets the horsey details right. (This is often a problem when authors have merely done research, not being horse people themselves.)

Good review, Bev, and I've added your BYRC candle.