On the Bookshelf...

No Reserve

Felix Francis

Theo Jennings is a young auctioneer at the Thoroughbred sales ring in Newmarket. The October yearling sales are where the big money exchanges hands in frenzied millions of Guineas paid for horses that are as yet unnamed, untested, and have never taken a step on the track. It's the greatest gamble in all of horseracing, and one that can end in ruin. Theo has just made the biggest sale of his life, when he overhears a secret conversation between the two bidders - can they really have colluded to fix the price of his big sale? When that same horse is found dead the next morning, he has no choice but to investigate, even against the wishes of his boss. But the more he uncovers, the less he can trust the people around him. The higher the stakes, the greater the risk. And in the bloodstock game, the ultimate price can be murder . . .

It's always a pleasure to read a Francis novel, whether it be the original Dick or the son Felix. Both have a wonderful grasp on what it takes to craft a novel that's highly readable. As regular as clockwork, one drops each year and every year I look forward to reading what area the novel will be based in. No Reserve is the latest and lifts the hood on equine auctions.

Theo Jennings is the main protagonist. An auctioneer in Newmarket, the home of horse racing, Theo has more world experience than many. When he sells a horse for three million pounds, he suspects something isn't right. An overheard conversation in the toilets confirms his fears that there is fraud being committed. When the next day the horse dies, he reports this to the head of the auctioneers. The response isn't quite what he thought it might be. Theo sets out to find the truth.

As with all Francis novels, the book is meticulously researched. Not only do you see the world behind auctions, but you also get to discover the joys of VAT and the vagaries of employment law. It's a well told story that is first rate without really stretching its legs. That's not to say it's disappointing. Like all Francis tales it keeps you turning those pages. It's like returning home after a cold day and basking in the heat of the fire. I think this is not the first time the auctioneers have been the backdrop to a Dick Francis thriller, but I may be wrong

All in all, a first class read that is well worth a read.

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Review by
AJ Steel
August 15, 2023

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