It has been a while since I previously read a Dick Francis novel, I went through a spate of reading them in the early nineties, my fiance at the time was crazy about horses and had lots of them (Dick Francis novels not horses…). This was one I missed at the time, because I see it was first published slightly after this time. It brings back memories, the central character, like the author, is connected to the horse racing world and tries to get to the bottom of some mystery and is often beaten up or falls off a horse part way through the book and slowly recovers.
He landed in a heap throwing me off forwards. I connected with the ground in one of those crunching collisions that tells you at once that you’ve broken a bone without being sure which bone.
Here the protagonist is Benedict Juliard, whose father is a hotshot politician. Ben wants to race horses but his father is keen for him to study at Exeter University first. Ben is helping his father get elected, when someone takes a potshot at them in the town square, later there is a mysterious fire, where they are staying. Ben is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. Ben is younger than the typical Dick Francis protagonist at the start of the book he is just seventeen. It is a quick page turning read as Dick Francis takes us into the murky world of politics. Oddly, the names of the political parties are not mentioned and Ben’s father is running for election in a fictitious Dorset town called Hoopwestern.
The 10 lb penalty of the title is the maximum a rider might carry with him to slow him down “in practice a 10 lb penalty is the most a horse will be faced with.”