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Crossfire Hardcover – August 17, 2010
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I had high hopes for this title. My husband and I were both fans of the earlier Dick Francis mystery novels (written, I believe with some assistance from his wife). I knew that after his wife's death, his son began to assist him. There has been a lapse of years since I last read a Dick Francis horse racing mystery so I was looking forward to this book after ordering it.
It's an ok (fair) book but lacks the characterization pizzazz of the earlier Francis novels. The mystery plot is fine but the main character, the protagonist, is hard to warn up to. The character is a man who has been in the military since leaving home at 17. He is now home, permanently because he has been disabled by losing a lower leg to an IED.
My biggest problem with the character is the repeated quotes from military strategy books and the character's instructors at Sandhurst. It seems forced. I found the plotting to be more than fair but this forced characterization of the central character in the book is its weakest aspect.
Still, I am going to try some of the other Felix Francis books to see if he improves over time.
Recommended for die hard Dick Francis fans only. Readable however not re-readable. Once is enough.
What I found illogical / unbelievable / not convincing :
* There was ONCE mention of two older siblings of the main character, and they are NEVER mentioned again. Vanished into thin air?
* That there was not psychological counseling after surgery (at least it was not mentioned)
* That someone who has grown up in a stable knows nothing about horse bridles
* That a intelligent and strong woman does not even TRY to find out who is blackmailing her
* That he has not taped (video and audio, or only audio) the slimy accountants confession
* That the main character was left to die of dehydration instead of simply pitching him from parking garage (it was the second floor). It is a much more believable cause of death, that to find a ex-military chained to wall dead from exposure/dehydration. And it avoids unnecessary complications. And solves the problem immediately.
* That he really plans to take over the stable from his mother (he know nothing about running it, and she is a to strong a personality to let him take over just like that)
In their fourth collaboration Dick Francis and his son Felix - or whichever one wrote this thing - make use of Dick Francis's two favorite plot devices. One of these concerns the estranged son returning home to a family in crisis, and he sorts it all out (HOT MONEY, DECIDER, TO THE HILT). Forsyth's infrequent visits to Berkshire had always been marked with stifling tension, and it's even more palpable now. His celebrated mother runs the Kauri Horse Stables, and she is regarded as the top woman trainer of race horses in England, except that, of late, her horses haven't been faring too well in their races. Forsyth, partly out of spite, pokes around and discovers that his mother had fallen prey to a dodgy accountant, the fallout being that she is now being blackmailed financially and is being forced into fixing races. Our guy comes to the rescue, maybe to teach his mom a lesson.
CROSSFIRE ends well and starts out well, had me excited, made me hearken back to certain of Francis's heroes who could handle themselves in a fight (FOR KICKS, SLAYRIDE, WHIP HAND). Mind you, I also relished his other, more cerebral protagonists - and each of his lads has always had iron gumption - but once in a while my inner cave man surfaces, and then I yearn for these reserved Englishmen to just haul off and punch a fella. Learning early on that Captain Forsyth possesses certain military skills, I was salivating for some nice action-paced sequences. But did the book live up to this promise?
True to Francis's leading man mold, Forsyth is a loner, is self-reliant, is utterly determined. Another recurring plot device Francis goes to is the protagonist getting beat up/tortured/put thru the wringer. One specific scene, in which our guy goes thru a hellish experience, reminds me quite a bit of NERVE. But Forsyth demonstrates the expected pluck and persistence, and in that sense he is very much like the rest of Francis's heroes. However, I'm a bit disappointed that our veteran Army Captain doesn't get more chances to display his badassery. I wouldn't have expected this of other Francis good guys - who are more the thinking man types - but Forsyth is touted as this top-notch fighting man...
And here's my big bugaboo: Thomas Forsyth just may be my least-liked Dick Francis protagonist, and, truth be told, I was struggling to find a sympathetic character in this book (maybe lovely Isabella, who married an old gent for love). Forsyth himself is surly and resentful and rude, and maybe his uncaring parents deserve his constant baiting, but it doesn't make me warm up to him.
The writing is skillful enough, so I guess it's the subject matter that's off-putting to me. Part of the dilemma facing Forsyth's parents is that they haven't paid taxes for the past several years, and so they live in wild fear of the tax man's coming. What this means is that there are passages regaling the reader with remarkably tiresome datum concerning tax evasion and sham hedge-funds and such. While this may be someone else's bag, it just ain't mine. The suspense is less than crackling, and Forsyth's investigation reads as a plodding exercise, and Dick Francis's trademark rich and warm character moments simply aren't present. Things finally liven up when Forsyth at last springs into action and undertakes what passes for a black ops mission in quiet, unassuming Lambourn, although I wish he'd quit mentioning whenever he was using his "command voice." Then, just around the time when you start thinking he really just may be a bad em-effer, the guy gets disarmed by a girl. The ending rolls around and I felt that the mother-son reconciliation was forced and rushed, and where Forsyth ends up at the end of the book left me thinking that several steps were skipped over. If this were Felix Francis writing CROSSFIRE (which I think it is), okay, I'd say it was a decent effort overall. But if this were Dick Francis writing CROSSFIRE, I would say that the master did not have his touch on this day, and that this thriller doesn't thrill.
Most recent customer reviews
Perhaps Felix Francis could continue the saga of Tom Forsythe ,