On the Bookshelf...

Hands Down

Felix Francis

Sid Halley is back, and he has a new left hand having had a transplant since his last appearance in Refusal. An ex-jockey trainer friend calls him to ask for his help in finding out who has threatened him, but Sid has his own problems of a marital nature, and he puts the friend off for a couple of days. However, the very next morning, the friend’s stable yard is torched, horses killed, and then the friend is found dead. The police think it’s suicide, but Sid is not convinced. Sid starts to investigate and soon finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy that cuts to the very heart of the integrity of British horse racing. Can Sid get to the bottom of what’s going on before he too becomes a victim, while, at the same time, saving his marriage?

Hands Down is the latest installment in the Sid Halley series of books. Set against the backdrop of horse racing this one has Sid with a new arm to replace the prosthetic one. His marriage in on the rocks and despite giving up investigating, he's drawn into another mystery when one of his friend's stables is burnt down. When his friend turns up dead, apparently by suicide, then he can't resist the urge to investigate, assisted once again by Chicco.

I don't know why I liked the Dick/Felix Francis novels so much. Horse racing leaves me cold, yet I can lose myself in the equine world. The books are easy to read, filled with atmosphere. Each one features part of the world of horse racing that you never knew existed. I've been reading them since the seventies, yet each book opens another insight into horse racing. I don't think I've come across a bad one in all those years.

Felix has done a remarkable job of carrying on the series since the death of his father. The books are still fresh and exciting. The last two, including this one have dealt with mental illness or psychological problems. This one it's how someone reacts to a hand transplant. The last was anxiety. It's been a welcome addition to the books, giving another layer to the story. I have to say I like the current direction.

Hands Down is an enjoyable read from the Francis stable. Highly recommended, even if you don't like horse racing.

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Review by
AJ Steel
March 23, 2023

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