On the Bookshelf...

Reflex

Dick Francis

Jockey and amateur photographer Philip Nore knows all too well how it feels to take a tumble from a horse. He also knows what it's like to feel the wrath of furious owners and trainers. You can't always be a winner. George Millace hated winners. As a photographer he specialized in taking pictures that exposed the failings of riders. But now he's dead - and no one seems very sorry. But when Millace's home is broken into during his funeral and Nore finds himself helping clear up, he finds something unexpected. Millace had other pictures - ones people will go to desperate lengths to possess. Now he must find out who wants them - and fast. Because if George Millace's death was no accident, then his killers are getting closer . . .

Another week, another Dick Francis re-read. Today it's Reflex, an eighties Francis classic. This was one that I loved back in the day. It's photography-based storyline appealed to me when I was just discovering the joys of SLR cameras for the first time. It piqued my interest on developing, a fact still true today, although now its digitally done. One of my favourite novels of all time, it would be interesting to see if it still held good today.

Philip Nore is a middling jockey with a penchant for photography. Over the years he's been chronicling his world with his camera, although strictly for his own enjoyment. The death of an unfriendly photographer, whose son is also a jockey, draws Philip into a mystery. It's further complicated when his dying grandmother, a person whom Philip hates, is dying and demands he finds his sister. It's a mystery to Philip, as he never knew his sister existed. His mother, a drug addict, had farmed him out to various homes, the last a photographer, hence his interest.

The story is as good as I remember. It is still an excellent read, albeit to be read as a period piece. The characters are really well done, Philip is a usual Francis protagonist, always on the right side of the moral argument. The supporting cast are surprisingly able as well. The young solicitor is a person you can warm to, and Nore's love interest (well there must be one), is a smart independent young woman. All add to the story, but its the photography back story that really grips me. Philip manages to untangle some knotty mysteries.

I'm glad this hasn't aged badly. It's a thoughtful and well composed piece of literature. A bit old fashioned yet read in the context of no mobile phones or digital photography and its a real gem. Five Towers still.

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Review by
AJ Steel
July 25, 2023

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