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by Felix Francis
Michael Joseph, September 2012
416 pages
18.99 GBP
ISBN: 0718159349

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This is the second solo novel for Felix Francis, despite the fact that the cover rather confusingly states that this is 'A Dick Francis Novel'. The book's narrator is successful racing commentator, Mark Shillingford. While commentating on a race that his sister, Claire, fails to win, Mark notices something odd, something that makes him think his twin was playing an old game, a game where losing is as much as an art as winning. Over dinner that night, he challenges Claire, who doesn't deny the accusation. They argue and she storms off. Later, she tries to ring him but he ignores the phone calls, a fact that will haunt him when he is visited by police in the middle of the night to tell him of his sister's apparent suicide by leaping from a balcony at a hotel.

The circumstances of his sister's death are as riddled with problems as the race she deliberately lost. Mark doesn't even understand why she was at the hotel at all, as when she left him it had been to go home. The police don't seen inclined to investigate too closely, happy to take Claire's death as suicide, but Mark is less sure. He wants to know why his sister was fixing races and why she took her own life. But his investigation if fraught with problems and Mark's own life soon comes under threat.

Any book where a member of the general public sets out to conduct their own investigations seems to rely on the well-worn premise of the uninterested or incompetent policeman or a mix of the two and in that respect this book unashamedly treads the same path. The plot is somewhat pedestrian, and the denouement provides little in the way of genuine surprises.

Felix Frances lacks much his father's talent for creating memorable characters, and Mark Shillingford definitely does not stand comparison with the likes of Kit Fielding or Sid Halley, nor does Shillingford as narrator have much in the way of a distinct voice. But despite that shortcoming, BLOODLINE works reasonably well as another well-researched look at yet another aspect of horse racing, in this case what happens in the commentary box. And while other avenues remain to be explored within the world of racing, I imagine we will continue to see more books out of the same stable.

Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, September 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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