book log: 73) Dick Francis — Reflex

Jockey Philip Nore isn’t too impressed when a young solicitor turns up at the weighing room, asking him to go and see his estranged grandmother. They’re estranged because his grandmother threw his mother out of the house when she became pregnant. Nore doesn’t know who his father is, hasn’t seen his mother in years and has good reason to believe that she’s dead, and was brought up by a succession of his mother’s friends who were asked to look after him for a few days that turned into a few months. He lost the one set of involuntary foster parents who wanted to keep him. So he’s more than a little bitter on the subject of family. Only being told that his grandmother is dying persuades him to go and see her — only to find that she isn’t dying just yet, and that she wants him to find a sister he never knew he had.

Another mystery drops into his lap when one of his friends suffers a series of misfortunes. Steve’s father dies in a car accident, his mother is burgled and then attacked. George Millace was a professional sports photographer, and it becomes clear to Nore that Millace had photographed more than horses. Nore’s haphazard upbringing has equipped him to dig up the dirt someone thought they’d buried along with Millace, because Nore’s best loved foster parents were also professional photographers, and Nore knows darkroom techniques inside out.

Nore slowly works his way through George Millace’s legacy, uncovering a network of corruption and blackmail — and getting too close to the final truth for somebody’s comfort.

It’s a beautifully constructed thriller, with the first strand intertwining with the second to provide the final resolution, even though there’s no direct link between them. And as ever with Francis’s novels, it’s an enthralling story of a man discovering himself and what he wants to do with the rest of his life.


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