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Trial Run: A classic racing mystery from the king of crime

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  2,181 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Dick Francis, the bestselling master of mystery and suspense, takes you into the thrilling world of horse racing. The last place veteran horseman Randall Drew wanted to go was Moscow. But when his royal highness the prince asks a favor, one doesn’t refuse.

The Royal Family is worried about the prince’s brother in law, who aims to make the Olympics. Unfortunately a jealous
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Kindle Edition, 249 pages
Published July 1st 2019 by Canelo USA (first published 1978)
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3.82  · 
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 ·  2,181 ratings  ·  72 reviews


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James Thane
This has to be, to my mind at least, the weakest of the novels written by Dick Francis. And, at least in the editions I own, it also has to win the prize for weirdest cover art.

The story opens when an amateur jockey and horse trainer named Randall Drew is approached by a member of the royal family with a special assignment. The prince's brother-in-law, a jockey named Johnny Farrington, would like to ride in the upcoming Olympic Games which are to be held in Moscow. But rumors are circulating tha
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Algernon (Darth Anyan)

Dick Francis has been one of the most reliable writers of crime fiction for me, guaranteed to fill in a lazy Sunday afternoon with a pleasant and mildly thrilling mystery set around the horse racing world. I believe Trial Run is the first misfire in the 30+ novels of his I've read so far. I will try to keep my review short, as I really don't like to attack one of my favorite writers.

Trial Run is atypical for me in the Dick Francis catalogue for two reasons :

- his heroes are usually quiet types
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Gerald Sinstadt
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
Has to be read these days as a period piece, set as it is in Russia before the break-up of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, anyone who visitedMoscow at that time will recognise the authenticity of the portrait.

The background is equine - but eventing, not racing - and will appeal to those who like a good espionage yarn. Dick Francis enthusiasts will find the author's ability to keep the pages turning is well up to standard.

In common with several other authors recently encountered, Francis sadly fa
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Sarah
Dec 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I always think of Dick Francis novels as my palate cleansers, but that's not really fair to him. Sure, they're breezy, fun reads. They're also tightly plotted, and impeccably researched. His characters all have complex motivations and human flaws. Any writer could learn from him. This one wasn't my favorite: too much gay scare, women pretty much only present as dragon ladies or free-woman-of-the-seventies style lovers. Francis did a great job of getting me to envision a Moscow winter in the late ...more
Melliott
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was my least favorite ever of Dick Francis's books. It started out confusingly, and became increasingly more so as the book went on. The Moscow setting, including the politics of the day, was depressingly dour, and the satisfaction of solving the mystery didn't alleviate all the confusion, although it was nice to finally (finally) have some exciting action and revelation way too far towards the end of the story. I felt like perhaps someone had dismissed Francis's books in comparison with so ...more
Harry
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 tha
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Wsm
Horse racing takes a back seat in this Dick Francis thriller.Most of the action takes place in Moscow during the days of the Soviet Union,just before the Olympic games of 1980.The familiar Francis ingredients of blackmail and violence are present.But for me,the most interesting part of the book was the authentic description of life behind the iron curtain.The city of Moscow is beautifully described,I could almost feel the chill of the Russian winter.
Robert Beveridge
I'm not sure I believe it, but there it is: amazon has Trial Run listed as out of print. Amazing.

By now I should be inured to the pace of a Dick Francis novel, which is roughly equivalent to that of a marathon turf stakes at Ascot: in order to conserve energy, the horses start off slow, knowing they have a couple of thousand meters ahead of them; the pace picks up after you get round to the backstretch the first time, and the finish is furious. Francis spent too much time on the backs of nags at
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C.E. Case
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent look at Cold War Russia. A world I was too young to really know for myself. Quite different than the usual Dick Francis book.
Kathryn McCary
Francis's mystery novels always involved more than their racing background and the plot-vehicle mystery. This one is a little more intensely about something else than most.

An upper-class English rider (with myopia and asthma) is dragooned by minor nobility into going to Moscow, in advance of the 1980 Olympic Games, to investigate a rumor that one of the possible riders for the British horse team will encounter the mysterious Alyosha, to his cost, should he attend the Games. More than a decade be
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Contrarius
Jul 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-thriller
This book in the Francis series steeps itself in the atmosphere of Cold War Russia, with some interesting observations on how institutionalized fear can warp the character of a people. Unfortunately, the narrator for the audio version of this volume (Tony Britton) had no idea of how to do a Russian accent, so most of the characters ended up sounding more German or Scandinavian than Russian. This one was fun overall, with twists and turns to match the spy caper tone of the book and multiple refer ...more
Michelle
Another great everyman mystery by my best pal, Dick Francis. Travel back to 1978, during the Cold War with Russia. We are scared of them, they are scared of us.

Randall Drew, ex-steeplechaser and general all-around good chap, is sent over to do some spying. By the Prince, no less. How would you say no to him? The mystery is a little unclear in places, but it all comes together by the end.

If you like horses, Russian-US Cold War, mysteries, and good guy main characters, you should check this one
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Marilyn
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dick Francis is always great for me...relaxing...interesting...love the British ways...mysterious...but not so much so that I can't put it down and go on to something else.
Randall Drew, a horseman who has recently been barred from racing because he wears glasses (of all things!), finds himself much needed by the prince to help resolve a confusion that has to do with the prince's brother-in-law, the Olympics, and the Russians. In Moscow, Randall sees the grimmer side of Russian life, while tryi
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Shorty
Jul 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paperback, owned, 2013
An old school Cold War/KGB plot, set in 1978. Loved it, and finished it in two days. Must recommend.
David
A convoluted plotline and not up to the usual Dick Francis standard.
E.P.
Dec 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although Dick Francis's novels all followed more or less the same basic formula, he also played with various subgenres, including the racing thriller (of course), the survival thriller ("Longshot"), the financial thriller ("Banker"), the travel thriller ("Smokescreen" and many others), the closed-train mystery ("One the Edge") and so on. "Trial Run" was his experimentation with the Cold War thriller.

Unsurprisingly, he does it well. There's a suitably horsey plot--a scandal surrounding a contende
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Sue
Jun 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, russia
Randall Drew was approached by the Prince to travel to Russia to inquire about Alyosha. The Prince’s brother-in-law wanted very much to be part of the Equestrian team at the Olympics but it seemed that if he went, Alyosha would be waiting to cause trouble. Would Randall please go and interview this individual and get a sense of how things lay. Well, Randall went and found that others had already been asking questions. Can he find answers where others have failed?
Typical Dick Francis in terms o
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Jan Harvey
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read

I have read this book several times and a tv programme about Russia reminded me of it. Ive always thought it was one of Francis's better books. Reads at a good pace, descriptive and has element's of intrigue and mystery. Cleverly using the horse 'world' to support the theme of the story where the main character visits Russia to try to solve a mystery. He meets a range of characters both european and Russian providing a little insight into Russia and Russian society of that time.
Liz
Mar 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Don't know why this lists as unknown binding as publisher/date/edition shows it is the first US hardcover edition. Anyway, wasn't really getting into any of the fiction I had available to read so decided to re-read something from Francis. I enjoy this story, like the action built around the Olympic games and also the premise of terrorism returning home to the country (Russia) that for so long specialized in exporting it to other lands.
Sara Diane
I love Francis, and this book happens to have been first published the year I was born (1978) and so it was a natural selection for the reading challenge we did at work (a book bingo) in which one selection was a book published in your birth year.

And while I appreciate the whole Cold War slant, I have to say, this just wasn't a favorite. It was fine, and there's plenty of the "hero in peril" and loveable and annoying characters, but it just never quite clicked with me. But I'm glad I read it, b
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Bekah (bmango)
So... the plot was good, and the writing was good, and it was a super quick read, but I just didn't care about the characters or what happened to them or how it was going to end... honestly really anything. Ah well, maybe it was the setting or the fact is was written 40 years ago. This book club should be interesting!
Tara
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a Dick Francis book. I’d forgotten how fun and well written they can be. This one was particularly interesting because it was written in ‘78 during the Cold War.
Jennifer
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Can’t believe I never read this one before. Soviet Moscow setting was well done.
Jessee
Jan 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5. Great mystery (light on the horses) and a creepy peek into late '70s era Soviet Russia.
John
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An early Dick Francis with most of the action set in Moscow. A plot involving Olympic riders entangles an ex rider in a circuitous investigation.
Genevieve
One of a very solid author’s weaker efforts. The Moscow setting is fun but the plot barely hangs together.
John Marsh
Dec 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris
May 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Trust Dick Francis to produce another best-seller. This time his hero Randall Drew penetrates the Iron Curtain into Soviet Russia. He emerges, of course, victorious after a series of hair-raising adventures .Randall Drew is prevented from carrying on his career in steeple chasing by poor eyesight.
Restless and unsure of his future but pursuing an ardent love affair, he does not welcome an invitation to go to Moscow on a delicate investigation, but almost irresistible pressures are brought to bear
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Vidya
Sep 25, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somewhat different from the usual Dick Francis style. For one, the book chugs along slowly, builds up to a climax, and then peters out again. The protagonist depends a lot on help from others, though he is still the one who does the mental math and puts the pieces together, and gets beaten up badly!

However, I liked the glimpse into the repressive Communist regime of the late '70s USSR, although the author has portrayed the leadership (and the KGB) in a kind light - upholding socialist principle
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Ed
Jun 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finalist 1978 Gold Dagger Award. The horse connection this time is Olympic equestrian events rather than racing and the venue has moved to Russia.

Racing related thrillers - How can you say no to a Prince? You can't, Randall Drew found out quite quickly, though the last place he wanted to go was Moscow, even if it was on a mission for the Royal Family. But the Prince's brother-in-law had his heart set on riding in the Olympics, and it seemed some jealous Russian had her heart set on killing him i
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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 b
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