Dead Cert by Dick Francis
Alan York is an amateur jockey in steeplechase races. As Dead Cert opens, Alan is behind his friend Bill Davidson in a race. He watches as Davidson’s horse falls in a jump and roll across Davidson’s body after the man had fallen off the horse. After Davidson is rushed to the hospital, York returns to the fence. He sees wire coiled beside the fence and grooves in the posts. Davidson was sabotaged.
After his friend dies, York is questioned about the death. He follows through with a question or two of his own. After he is kidnapped and beaten up, he starts asking more questions. The beating was a warning to stay quiet. But the men don’t know Alan York. Now he is determined to discover who rigged the trap against Davidson’s horse and killed his friend.
York discovers a woman who catches his heart from the moment they meet. With her, he discovers a crime ring that offers “protection” to small business owners. The more York investigates, the more danger he is in. He tries to keep Kate out of trouble as he digs deeper. He wants to break up the criminal network. He is lucky if he is able to stay alive during his pursuit.
Dead Cert was Francis’ first book, although I didn’t know that when I picked it up. It’s an absolute winner. This novel is a great way to break into the world of mystery literature. Francis took a profession he knew and loved and made that into the background of his mysteries. He gives the reader a wonderful sense of the behind the scenes at horse races.
Francis gives us a complex character in Alan York. By the end of the novel I felt York was someone I knew. The other characters are not drawn as well, but are rounded out into believability. Dead Cert is an excellent book. In fact, it wasn’t until I did my research that I realized it was written 40 years ago. It ages extremely well.