DICK FRANCIS – Whip Hand. Harper & Row, hardcover, 1979. Pocket, paperback, 1981. Reprinted many times since, in both hardcover and soft.


   Thanks to some exposure on public television’s recent venture into mystery drama, this the latest of Dick Francis’ novels on racetrack chicanery has been flirting in recent weeks with the lower extremities of various best-seller lists.

   Mystery fans may not be so pleased with this state of affairs once they realize that Harper & Row have been pushing it as straight fiction, not what it actually is — a straightforward private eye detective thriller. But of course, as everyone knows, private eye stories just don’t sell.

   Sid Halley, the jockey who lost a hand in a previous Francis adventure, has had some success recently as a PI dealing largely in horsey matters, perhaps too much so for his own good. When the villains see him coming, they think they know what it will take to scare him off.

   And they’re not so very far from wrong. Halley has to come to some strong grips with himself before he can start tackling the end of the case. But because of all the soul-searching, perhaps, the pace seems to plod more than it has in much of Francis’s previous works. The violence seems to be too calculated and perfunctory, and in spite of the odds, Sid Halley comes up smelling of roses, just as expected.

Rating:  B

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier,
       Vol. 4, No. 4, July-August 1980 (somewhat revised). This review also appeared earlier in the Hartford Courant.