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Adventure In Reading - Dick Francis - Shattered
The Author And This Book
Dick Francis was born in 1920. His father was a jockey and stable manager in England and the budding author followed in his father's footsteps. He became a championship steeplechase jockey in the 1953-54 season and included more than 350 wins. His career included many broken bones and damaged organs and these problems show up in his books. Most of this protagonists suffer in the same manner but not necessarily from horse racing accidents.
This book was published in 2000 and is about 290 pages long. It is one in more than 40 books that have been best sellers throughout the world.
The book begins with a crisis when Gerald Logan, a young yet impressively well known glassblower, goes to the races with his friend jockey Martin Stukely. During the feature race while leading easily, Martin's horse falls, crushing the jockey. As with most of the Dick Francis books, the profession of the main character is specialized. In this case it is glass blowing and Francis displays the ability to lend much credence to his depiction of the glass blower's profession. The story that evolves careens from Martin's family and back through Gerald Logan and his staff at Logan's Glass to a group of villians that are ruthless.
Confusion exists on all sides as to the prize. It is apparently a video tape that Martin entrusted to the jockeys' valet prior to his fatal race. Instructions were to deliver it to his friend Gerald as it had great value. These instructions were carried out but the tape promptly goes astray.
The villains want the tape. The family doesn't know the tape exists. A third group enters the story and some of the mystery surrounding the tape dissolves. At that same time, the group of villains expands to include a research scientist that has shady dealings.
The story does come to a conclusion that successfully explains all of the problems that have been experienced by the cast.
At the track where the fatal accident occurs, Eddie Payne (the jockeys' valet) passes a video tape to Gerald Logan after the accident. Thinking it of no great consequence, Gerald is casual in his handling of the tape. As a result that evening (which is New Year's Eve) his store is robbed during a lax moment. The tape as well as the days healthy receipts are stolen.
Investigation of the robbery is done the next day by Detectiive Constable Catherine Dodd. She appears dressed as a street person while working undercover on the nearby streets. A mutual attraction quickly develops even though she downplays the seriousness of the robbery.
This initial robbery is followed by a series of breakins, both at Gerald's home and at the home of the late jockey, Martin. Martin's family - a wife, children, a mother in law, and a chauffeur - are gassed. Gerald is knocked unconscious when he arrives at Martin's house to help with the children - a task that seems momentous to the bereaved wife.
Gerald is attacked outside his place of business by four thugs that are masked and dressed in black. He is able to identify three of them to his satisfaction from their mannerisms and speech. They want the video tape that Martin had entrusted to him.
Since the video tape had been stolen along with the day's receipts on New Year's Eve, there wasn't any way that Gerald could produce the tape. The thugs didn't believe him and were beating on him severely when an acquaintance - Tom Pigeon - and his dogs happened upon the scene. This arrival scared off the assailants.
A relationship develops between Tom, his dogs, and Gerald that stands Gerald in good stead in the coming trials and tribulations. Several attacks and beatings occur and Gerald takes his lumps throughout the book.
The trail leads to a doddery seeming research scientist that has murderous intent. The research scientist's previous employer along with Tom and his dogs step in again to rescue Gerald. The entry of the scientists into the cast of characters begin to shed some light on the video tape.
Things finally boil over and come to a head in the glass shop where Gerald and his staff create works of art in glass. Gerald has created a situation where the solution will hopefully present itself. The mystery is resolved and Gerald and Catherine are at least currently content with their relationship.
Most of the Francis books have a concrete beginning that establishes a problem. They take you through the eyes of a professional who while not aligned directly with racing, has at least an interest. It is usually detailed in the mechanics and the emotions surrounding the professional life of the main characters (which is usually not racing). Through the perseverance and intelligence of the main character, the mystery is resolved.
This book lives up to that reputation. It is a great example of the Francis technique. I rate it a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10.