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Dead Cert: A classic racing mystery from the king of crime

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  5,502 ratings  ·  165 reviews
Dick Francis, the bestselling master of mystery and suspense, takes you into the thrilling world of horse racing

Steeplechaser Alan York knows well the dangers of the sport. But when his best friend and rival Bill Davidson takes a fall in the middle of a race and doesn’t get up again, Alan discovers it was no accident. Someone rigged a tripwire to take down the running

Kindle Edition, 372 pages
Published May 2nd 2019 by Canelo USA (first published 1962)
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James Thane
First published in 1962, this is the book that started Dick Francis on his career as a novelist.
Francis was forty-two at the time, a veteran of World War II, and a former steeplechase jockey himself. Virtually all of his novels take place in and around the world of British horseracing. While he repeats the same character only a couple of times, virtually all of his protagonists are the same sort of man--relatively young, intelligent, determined, courageous, and somewhat aloof--at least until

Horse racing can be a dangerous sport, but it becomes a deadly one when a champion is killed.

The film doesn't build the suspense in the same way at all - the book was a corker!
Dick Francis may not have been trying to earn literary awards, or communicating any life-changing truths with his writing, or pick apart the general public and/or it's attitudes/ideas/lifestyles. But he sure did know how to tell a great mystery story. His heroes are always kind, tough, clever, and very good, in a very basic, old-fashioned way. His plots are always engaging, with plenty of actual knowledge from the sport involved, since he was a jockey in a former life. His romances are very ...more
A re-read as a palate cleaner. Still love it as much. Wonderful language, great characterisation and perfect racing lore.
Feb 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, f
Three jockeys were warned not to win their races, someone wanted good riders turned into also-rans. Bill died when the sure-footed Admiral fell, Joe was scared rotten, and Alan York became the prime target of a vicious gang. But Alan wanted revenge, and to hell with the danger.

I have seen and heard of this author for many years before finally deciding to give him a try. I read and enjoyed Forfeit last month and having picked up a few of his books recently decided to try
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dick Francis: What a great writer. Now and then I'll reread one. I try to wait a long time because they're so memorable. Dead Cert is more than half a century old, and shows its age. Would you believe a fleet of taxis directed by radio from a central location being described as a brilliant innovation? But terrific characters, terrific suspense, and the wonderful world of steeplechase horse racing in England add up as usual to an eagerly read novel -- even the second or third time around.
Miriam Smith
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love all of Dick Francis books, well written and always has an interesting story. Highly recommend!
What is there to say about Dick Francis? As I think about all of his books (yes, this review covers all of his books, and yes I've read them all) I think about a moral ethical hero, steeped in intelligence and goodness embroiled in evil machinations within British horse racing society - either directly or indirectly. The heroes aren't always horse jockies, they can be film producers, or involve heroes engaged in peripheral professions that somehow always touch the horse racing world.

But more
Jan 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dick Francis may not be trying to earn literary awards, or communicate any life-changing truths with his writing, but he does know how to tell a great mystery story. His heroes are always kind, tough, clever, and good. His plots are always engaging. His romances (there is almost always a romance) do border on overly-cheesy at times, but they are sweet. And I find the world of British horse racing he describes (all of his characters are jockeys or involved in racing in some way or another) to be ...more
Oct 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: francis
The very first racing thriller penned by Dick Francis,which launched him on his bestselling career.A horse,which is heavily fancied to win,falls during a race and its jockey is killed.His friend investigates and finds himself in mortal danger.
Joe McNally
Aug 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a turning point in my life, although I didn't know it at the time. I was just 14 when I read it and 'on the run' from school again (I was a frequent truant). I've never forgotten the first line ..."The mingled smells of hot horse and cold river mist filled my nostrils." It drew me in immediately and I read it in one sitting.

If you'll forgive me for not summarizing the plot, as a normal reviewer would - others have done that well enough - I'll tell you what Dick Francis and Dead
Dead Cert, the title of this Dick Francis novel, refers to a sure thing in the racing world as much as that can be possible when enormous horses and the men riding them, are dashing around a steeplechase course consisting of a variety of jumps, different terrains and water barriers to cross. When a highly respected jockey dies from a fall that occurs while riding Admiral, in a ride which had been touted as a dead cert by those in the know, fellow amateur jockey Alan York realizes that foul play ...more
An Odd1
May 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Wealthy Rhodesian (and narrator) Alan York, rides in England for fun until his best friend, family man Bill Davidson fulfills a "dead certain" win on Admiral, ignoring a warning to lose, and dies from a wire across the last jump, then cheating Joe Nantwich is knifed. Another pal, poor but honest and handsome Dane, competes romantically, for novice owner hot Kate. An angry whisper masterminds racetrack fraud, and a protection racket conducted by Marconicar radio taxis. Blue Duck's new innkeeper ...more
Dec 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Started: December 1, 2007
Finished: December 3, 2007


This is another re-read by one of my favourite authors. Dick Francis was a highly successful jockey, and he used to ride the Queen Mother's horses. When he retired, he started writing books*, and I think they're brilliant. They all involve horse racing in some way (though some of them very peripherally), and with few exceptions, the protagonist (of which very few are repeated) is forced into the role of amateur detective, usually out of
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like clean mysteries with a minimum of violence
When I was growing up, certain names were part of the book landscape. In the library, those book-of-the-month club ads, magazines, I'd always see the same names: Christie, Simenon, Francis...but for some reason I never picked one up. Which is weird, because the horse thing started earlier and lasted longer for me than for some kids. I'm sure if I'd actually checked Francis out then I'd have devoured them all, just as I did all the ones I could find in the 1980s.

I decided to begin at the
Book Concierge
Book on CD read by Simon Prebble

Alan York is a wealthy man and an amateur jockey. He is riding well in this race but still a close second to his good friend Bill Davidson … until Bill’s horse falls and Alan finishes first. The victory is a hollow one because Bill is so seriously injured he dies in hospital. As Alan thinks over the race he is certain that there was something unnatural about the way Admiral took that jump. So, he goes back to the course to look at the jump where Bill’s horse fell.
I read this because one of the Penguin 60 books (Racing Classics) I read recently contained, instead of a short story, the first chapter of this book. It was a very well written first chapter, which built suspense and set up a great story. I was pretty annoyed at that, and had whetted my appetite to finish the novel, which I picked up for a couple of dollars a few days later.

Dick Francis is a former steeple-chase jockey, so is writing well within his sphere of knowledge, and that comes across in
Sep 16, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dick Francis fans
Shelves: english, mystery, 2009, africa
I've only read one other book by Dick Francis, and although I enjoyed the story, I wasn't sure if I'd really be that anxious to read another. I'm not sure if it was the violence, the horse racing and gambling, or what, but it just didn't pull me in as other series have done.

But then I came across this book - the first by Dick Francis and I figured I'd give it another try. All of my previous grievances still hold true, but I will admit that he is adept at writing an exciting, suspenseful story.
Inger Faherty
Sep 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Dick Francis; his stories always seem familiar and comforting. I enjoy listening to audio books while I commute and his books are often read by Simon Prebble, who is quite enjoyable. Although it's not great literature and it's sometimes predictable, Dead Cert is a great read/listen.
Gilbert Stack
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dick Francis knows how to start a novel with a bang—in this case the murder of Alan York’s best friend in the middle of a steeplechase. It didn’t look like murder, but York sees more than he’s supposed to and sets himself on a path to find out who killed his friend—a decision that almost results in his own death.

The mystery is a good one and there are several tense actions scenes both on and off the track, but for me the standout element of the book was Alan York. I would have liked to have
Jane Stewart
The main guy is supposed to be an amateur Sherlock Holmes, but he does too many stupid things to be enjoyable.

Alan has a good relationship with his father who is extremely wealthy, so Alan doesn’t need to work. He spends his time as a jockey riding steeple chase horses. He lives with his friend Bill and Bill’s wife and children. The book opens with Bill riding the lead horse in a race. A bad guy strings wire over a jumping fence which causes Bill’s horse to fall, killing Bill. Alan
Another of the old Francis books, not as good as High Stakes, but well worth the read. Even a little romance thrown in which is unusual for his books.
Alexis Neal
Jun 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Bill Davidson has everything--a doting wife, three adoring children, the best hunter 'chaser in the country, a reputation as the best amateur steeplechase jockey going, and more than enough money to finance it all. Then one day, his prize horse Admiral takes a nasty fall during a race, and Bill Davidson winds up dead. Everyone shrugs it off as an unfortunate accident--everyone, that is, except Alan York, best friend to the dearly departed. Alan's convinced there was something not quite right ...more
Sep 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rereadable
After reading the latest too-clever pseudo-mystery that tried too hard to be darkly funny, I had to get that taste out of my mouth with an actual mystery. I know I can always count on Dick Francis for an interesting murder in the world of horse racing.

True to form, a likeable fellow is killed off in the first chapter leaving just enough clues for our narrator to track down the culprit with minimal involvement from the police. The mystery in "Dead Cert" was complicated enough to keep me guessing
Feb 10, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, francis
Alan, a steeplechase rider, has the horror of watching his friend Bill die right in front of him when his 'dead cert' winner of a horse falls at the last hurdle and lands on Bill. He then discovers that it wasn't the poor weather or an accident that kills Bill - but a deliberate act of sabotage. When he starts asking questions to find out who might've wanted to hurt Bill, he becomes entangled in a mess of crooked jockeys, a gang terrorising small businesses, and a taxi company - as well as in a ...more
Mar 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, uk, audiobook, horses
I have a real soft spot for Dick Francis. He and Agatha Christie started my romance with British mysteries, and I've read every single one of his books.

Dead Cert is his first, and it's pretty good. His later works are better written, but this has lots of horses, intrigue, and action. As always, his hero is unambiguously good, and surprisingly this bad guy is a lot more sympathetic than the later villains. (Let's not kid ourselves, he's still bad, but not as unequivocally evil as the later
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a fun read! Even after, what, 50 years? Wow. The author wrote the story without too much time-dated detail to distract from the story. The plot flowed smoothly, and the characters were well developed. I listened to the audiobook and the actor did a pretty good job as well.
Kaethe Douglas
Yeah, I spent my holiday break from school reading Dick Francis. It was good.
Barbara Peters
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another interesting mystery involving horses.
Mar 20, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I quite enjoy the books by Dick Francis, I always feel that I have read them before. A good read all the same.
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Dick Francis CBE (born Richard Stanley Francis) was a popular British horse racing crime writer and retired jockey.

Dick Francis worked on his books with his wife, Mary, before her death. Dick considered his wife to be his co-writer - as he is quoted in the book, "The Dick Francis Companion", released in 2003:
"Mary and I worked as a team. ... I have often said that I would have been happy to have
“Love's easy to learn. It's like taking a risk. You set your mind on it and refuse to be afraid, and in no time you feel terrifically exhilarated and all your inhibitions fly out of the window.” 48 likes
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