Decider by Dick Francis
Lee Morris is an architect who likes to rebuild ruins. His mother had been married to Keith Stratton, a good looking, rich, frustrated, wife beater. She divorced him and married Lee’s father. In order to keep her quiet, Keith’s father, Lord William Stratton, had paid her off until she died. One of the bequests from her to her son was eight shares in the Stratton Park, a horse race course owned by the Stratton family.
Most of the shares of the Park are owned by the Stratton family. Lee never attends any board meetings or the course. He only occasionally collects dividend checks. But Lee is approached by the employees of the course who run the day to day events. Now that Lord William has died, the family is divided on the future of the course. They are at odds with each other. Could Lee attend the up and coming board meeting and make things right?
His first response is no. But curiosity gets the better of him. He packs five of his six sons in their traveling bus and takes off for the Stratton race course. When he walks into the board meeting Keith is ready to kill him – Lee’s mother dared divorce him and desert the daughter she had conceived through rape. Most of the other Strattons do not want him there, either. Lee quickly learns that Lord William’s sister Margery is the strong personality of the family, ruling the others with an iron grip. The family is full of dark, dangerous secrets. The only reason they work together, sort of, for the race track is because each is being blackmailed by someone else in the family. Only Dart, one of the Strattons in his generation, accepts Lee and approves the new interference.
Can Lee take on the whole Stratton family? He is a peacemaker and lets things ride whenever possible. This family is strong and automatically hates him due to his mother. If not for Dart and Roger, the race course manager, Lee would walk away. Instead, he and his sons settle in for a week to see if he can help. Little does he know that the decision will put his and his sons’ lives in danger.
Dick Francis knew how to write a good thriller and knew the racing world in England. Decider is excellent, using Lee Morris’ first person narrative to reveal the hidden dark secrets of England’s upper class. Lee is a complex character with many complications going on in his life. This book not only deals with the issues within the Stratton family, but within the Morris family as well. Lee comes to life under Francis’ pen.
The race course is a great background for the deceptions and evil within the Stratton family. The architect field is explored and featured in this crafty novel. Some of the revealed family secrets are not surprising by the time they are revealed. But a couple wait until the end and are still a surprise. This suspense novel is a good read.