Nikki's Reviews > To the Hilt

To the Hilt by Dick Francis
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Jun 30, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, mysteries, books-set-in-england, books-set-in-scotland
Read in June, 2011

I found this book at the Ursuline Mall (rummage sale) at the St. John's Bazaar, and bought it for a quarter to read while eating my lobster roll. It got me through fried clams and strawberry shortcake as well, and when I got home I couldn't put it down.

Dick Francis has a theme that runs through many of his books, as my husband (Snorri Sturlusson) pointed out. A young man comes to a crossroads in his life and some crime involves him on the side of the angels, during the course of which he learns a lot about himself and often begins to chart the course for the rest of his life. Such is To the Hilt. Francis does something a bit different with the formula every time. This time, Alexander Kinlock, the protagonist, is a painter of golf scenes who lives off the grid in the Scottish Highlands. Coming home from a trip to the post office, where he's just learned of his stepfather's heart attack, he is set upon and beaten up by four thugs who seem to be looking for something. They leave him (not seeming to care whether he's dead or alive), trash his cottage, and he manages to make his way to his mother's London home. There, Al learns that his stepfather's brewery is about to go under because of a massive embezzlement. And of course there is horseracing involved, as the brewery sponsors an annual steeplechase in which the stepfather's horse is slated to run. And that's not the half of it.

Dick Francis, apparently with help from his wife and, later, their son, researched his books heavily and one of the pleasures of reading them is how much one learns about so many subjects -- in this case, painting, bankruptcy, the trials of turning ober one's stately home to a conservation trust. But one never feels lectured at because the storyline is so compelling and Francis is always coming up with unexpected plot twists. I resisted reading Dick Francis for many years and now I'm glad I did, for there will be no more of his books, but I still have many unread to look forward to. Recommended.
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