Saturday, July 27, 2019

Book Review: Reflex by Dick Francis

Author: Dick Francis
Publication: G.P. Putnam's Sons (October 4, 2005)

Description: A jockey unravels nasty secrets of corruption, blackmail, and murder in this mystery from grand master of crime fiction Dick Francis.

Longtime jockey Philip Nore is no hero. But when he begins to suspect that a racetrack photographer’s fatal accident was really murder, he sets out to discover the truth and trap the killer. Slowly, he unravels some nasty secrets of corruption, blackmail and murder—and unwittingly sets himself up as the killer’s next target...

My Thoughts: Main character Philip Nore is a steeplechase jockey nearing the end of his career. He does have a possible new career as a photographer but lacks the confidence to give up his present for a potential future. He is a very intriguing character who is the product of a very unusual childhood. Philip's seventeen-year-old mother would frequently leave him with friends for various lengths of time. His few times with his mother were spent in a drug culture. He was exposed to marijuana and LSD as a preschooler. He saw his mother infrequently and never after the age of fifteen. He received birthday and Christmas gifts until his eighteenth birthday when he assumed she died - probably of a heroin overdose.

Two of the homes where he was left have influenced his present. He spent a couple of years with a gay couple named Charlie and Duncan who developed his interest in photography. He was with them for a couple of years until Duncan left and his mother swept him away to friends at a racing stable who developed his interest in being a jockey.

Now 30, he's more or less drifting in his life. Then a few things happen that change him. The trainer and owner he works for most often have asked him to throw a race. He had done this for them in the past but not for the last three years. And famous racing photographer George Millace died in a single car accident. Millage was an excellent photographer but not much liked because he had an unerring eye for photos that most didn't want to see. He was filled with ill will. His son Steve is a fellow jockey with Philip.

When Steve has a fall and breaks his collarbone, Philip offers him a ride home. Steve's mother's house had been burgled while they were at the funeral and again a couple of days later. The second time Mrs. Millace was beaten up by the burglars who were looking for a safe. Steve gives Philip a box of his father's mistakes that he had carefully kept and Philip was intrigued to find out why he had saved them. His common interest in photography and love of puzzles drew him in - and led him into danger.

Another change is also coming to Philip's life. The grandmother who threw her daughter out when she was a teen wants to see him. She's sent a lawyer from the firm who does her business to bring him to her. The lawyer guilts Philip into visiting the grandmother he hates for her treatment of his mother. She drops a bombshell and wants him to find his sister Amanda - a sister he didn't know he had.

Philip works with the lawyer to look for his sister while trying to solve George Millace's puzzles. The puzzles lead to Millace's possible side job as a blackmailer and put Philip in great danger from those Millace had blackmailed when they learn that he has the photographic files.

This was an excellent story with an intriguing main character and very interesting photographic puzzles. I really liked the descriptions of the characters which illuminated them in a few short sentences. I liked Philip learning more about his family and his past. I also liked that it led him to a new future and a woman to love.

Favorite Quote:
Most people's lives, I thought, weren't a matter of world affairs, but of the problems right beside them. Not concerned portentously with saving mankind, but with creating local order: in small checks and balances.
I bought this one recently for my Kindle to supplement the paperback I've had for many years. You can buy your copy here.

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