Dick Francis, CBE, FRSL (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 both our names on the cover. Mary's family always called me Richard due to having another Dick in the family. I am Richard, Mary was Mary, and Dick Francis was the two of us together."
As usual Mr Francis is writing about race horses but this book is a little different in that the horses are crossing Canada on a train! They are accompanied by all the necessary owners, riders and hangers on plus our main character who is a kind of special agent employed by the Jockey Club to keep things on the straight and narrow.
I really enjoyed the whole story particularly the details of the train journey which is one I would like to do. On a safer train though. This one was subject to several deaths and unexpected happenings.
Altogether just what we expect from a Dick Francis' novel - easy to read, interesting characters and lots of crime. Excellent!
Tor Kelsey is young, single, and independently wealthy, which leaves him free to do virtually whatever he wants. He chooses to work as an undercover agent for the English Jockey Club, ferreting out threats to the English racing world. Kelsey is particularly gifted at disguising himself, blending into whatever circumstances in which he might find himself, and sneaking up on his quarry who never even notice that he's there.
In this case, a thuggish blackmailer named Julius Apollo Filmer has insinuated himself into the world of British racing so cleverly that the Powers That Be have no way of driving him out. Kelsey is assigned to get the needed evidence, which becomes increasingly important when Filmer joins an expedition called the Great Transcontinental Mystery Race.
In this case, the continent in question is North America, and a group of very wealthy and socially prominent owners are taking their horses on a week-long trip across Canada. The trip is designed to promote Canadian horse racing and it will be a very lavish party with some important horse races along the way. Kelsey will join the party on the train masquerading as a waiter, while he attempts to prevent whatever disaster Filmer intends to cause along the way. As always, an attractive woman will enter the picture, and Tor and the woman will do the slow dance leading to romance that is a hallmark of these novels.
The story is okay and will remind the reader in some respects of Agatha Christie's great novel, Murder on the Orient Express. The journey across Canada is interesting, and the scenery along the way is well-described. To my mind, though, this is not among the best of the Dick Francis novels because it lacks the tension that usually exists between the protagonist and the (always) nasty villain. Without giving anything away, the climax of the novel isn't quite up to the author's usual standards and thus this book seems a bit flat compared to many of the others. It's enjoyable, but a three-star read rather than anything more.
This was not one of my favorite Dick Francis novels and it tool me awhile to sort out why. It certainly had all the right components in the protagonist, Tor Kelsey. Orphaned (sort of): check. Average guy with above average talents: check. Instalove with slow build up: check. Clever bad guy: check. Even more clever good guy: check.. So what was missing? For me, it was the lack of a relationship between Tor and the bad guy.
Julius Apollo Filmer (bad guy) doesn't even know Tor exists. Tor works for the Jockey Club as a sort of "invisibles man" who effortlessly wanders race courses in disguise, looking for people breaking the rules. No one knows he exists and the lawbreakers are always stunned when they get caught. Filmer is good at getting other owners to turn their horses over to him. The owners are afraid to tell the Jockey Club why. One owner kills himself, a stable lad who hints at knowing what Filmer is doing turns up dead.
When Filmer joins a Canadian train trip for racehorse owners, the Canadian Jockey Club decides to employ Tor to thwart whatever Filmer is planning. In addition to three horse races along the route, there is also a mystery being played out during the ride. Remember when those staged mysteries were popular? The book was a lot of fun but there was very little tension, as Filmer didn't know of Tor's existence, so he was really never at risk. I generally enjoy Francis' s ability to write an interesting nemesis for our hero to take down, but this one was a little too removed for my taste. It's like if someone tells you about something horrific that happened to a friend of a friend of a friend...just a little too far removed to really kick you in the gut (or maybe that's me being cold blooded). Anyway, not quite enough bang for my buck here.
I enjoyed the story about a villain trying to a train with pedigree race horses traveling across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver. We know early on who is the crook and the invisible man Tor trying to find evidence of his criminality.
The story brought back for me memories of trips to Canada. Toronto, Calgary, Lake Louise and Hells Gate. The details about the train and its mechanics were fascinating. We all know the outcome of the story and Tor lines up all his ducks and Filmer gets his desserts.
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 than that, Francis's heroes are rational human beings. The choices made are rational choices directed by a firm objective philosophy that belies all of Francis's novels. The dialogue is clear and touched with humor no matter the intensity of evil that the hero faces. The hero's thoughts reveal a vulnerability that is touching, while his actions are always based on doing the right thing to achieve justice.
Causing the reader to deeply care about the characters in a novel is a difficult thing to do. No such worries in a Francis novel. The point of view is first person, you are the main character as you read the story (usually the character of Mr. Douglas). The hero is personable, like able, non-violent but delivering swift justice with his mind rather than through physical means. This is not to say that violence is a stranger to our hero. Some of it staggering and often delivered by what we would think of normal persons living in British society.
You will come to love the world of Steeple Chase racing, you will grow a fondness for horses, stables, trainers and the people who live in that world. You will read the books, devouring one after the other and trust me Dick Francis has a lot of novels (over 40 by my last count).
There are several series woven into the fabric of Francis's work: notably the Sid Halley and Kit Fielding series.
Assessment: Dick Francis is one of my favorite writers. I read his books with a fierce hunger that remains insatiable and I mourn his death.
Στη βιβλιοθήκη μου έχω πέντε βιβλία του Ντικ Φράνσις (εννοείται όλα αγορασμένα από παλαιοβιβλιοπωλεία μέσα στα προηγούμενα χρόνια), όμως είναι το πρώτο βιβλίο του συγγραφέα που διαβάζω. Ο Ντικ Φράνσις φημίζεται για τα θρίλερ μυστηρίου που διαδραματίζονται λίγο έως πολύ στον κόσμο των ιπποδρομιών, και το συγκεκριμένο μυθιστόρημα δεν αποτελεί εξαίρεση.
Ο Τζούλιους Απόλλο Φίλμερ αποτελεί το μαύρο πρόβατο των ιπποδρομιών, όντας ένας εγκληματίας που εκβιάζει και απειλεί ιδιοκτήτες αλόγων, εκπαιδευτές και ιππείς, με τους υπεύθυνους ασφαλείας του Τζόκεϊ Κλαμπ να προσπαθούν μάταια να τον πιάσουν στα πράσα. Ο Τορ Κέλσι είναι ένας μυστικός πράκτορας που θα κάνει τα πάντα για να πιάσει τον Φίλμερ τη στιγμή που κάνει ένα έγκλημα. Ίσως στο μεγάλο σιδηροδρομικό ταξίδι κατά πλάτος του Καναδά -ευκαιρία για διακοπές και ωραίους αγώνες ιπποδρομίας για αρκετούς πλούσιους (Καναδούς και μη)-, είναι ο στόχος του Φίλμερ. Ο Κέλσι θα βρεθεί ινκόγκνιτο στο τρένο (ως σερβιτόρος) για να παρακολουθεί τις κινήσεις του Φίλμερ και να αποτρέψει τυχόν δολιοφθορές...
Σαν θρίλερ δεν μπορώ να πω ότι με συγκλόνισε, μου φάνηκε ολίγον τι νερόβραστο και με ελάχιστες στιγμές αγωνίας ή έντασης. Σε αρκετά σημεία βαρέθηκα έως ένα βαθμό, αλλά η γραφή ήταν αν μη τι άλλο ξεκούραστη και ευκολοδιάβαστη, οπότε συνέχιζα την ανάγνωση δίχως τύψεις. Προς το τέλος κάπως ανέβηκαν οι σφυγμοί, αλλά μέχρι εκεί. Πάντως μου άρεσε πάρα πολύ το όλο σέτινγκ του τρένου και του ταξιδιού, καθώς και η ατμόσφαιρα, οπότε έστω και την τελευταία στιγμή θα τσιμπήσει το τέταρτο αστεράκι. Εντέλει, δεν πέρασα και άσχημα!
4.5 stars. As others have said, more eloquently than I, much of Dick Francis' heroes are of the same base. Having said that, I enjoyed the buildup, the action and the writing of this book. Due to the way the book played out, there was (it could be argued) two climaxes, both of which were rather delicious, with the second one being a lot more satisfying. I was a little disappointed at the resolution being so short.
All of his books are great. The hero is always someone who is modest, intelligent and clever, but human. The bad guy is always clearly bad, but the world he paints (usually to do with steeplechase horse racing) is magical. I'd read any one of his books and often do reread them for comfort.
This book took a little while to get going, with our hero undercover on a Jockey Club Train right across Canada, and as many characters as an Agatha Christie country house mystery, but the tension built up well the nearer the train got to Vancouver. Usual reliable stuff from Dick Francis
Unlike most of Francis' works, this one takes place on a train. Like most, this one also revolves around horses.
The Canadians are trying to set themselves up as the next big thing in race-horsing and to advertise their racing season, they've decided to feature special races and also organize for a traveling jaunt across the country for owners and racegoers by a special train. The cross country experience offers splendid meals on wheels, a 'live' mystery put on by special actors and an opportunity for those interested in horses and horse-racing to get together and experience the many joys of the Canadian horse-racing scene.
Enter Julius Apollo Filmer - a man whom the British racing world widely knows to be a thorn in the flesh for the Stewards and other senior officials in British racing because of his penchant for causing trouble. Julius' racing history is chequered, his deals shady and he has been implicated in the death of atleast one stable lad while being suspected of causing the suicide of a well known trainer. However, the charges levied against him remain unproven as the key witnesses backed out at the last moment and the man has continued to remain an eyesore no one in the racing world can do much about. Julius also carries a grudge against the racing establishment and will be traveling on the Canadian race train - to what ends and for what purpose, one can only guess but suffice it to say that the Canadian racing establishment is worried enough to request for help from their British counterparts.
Enter Tor Kelsey - mild mannered, unassuming, quiet - a man so in the shadows that most people never know he is there. Known for his ability to literally 'melt into the crowd', he is one of the best investigators in the British racing security team and he too, will be traveling on the Canadian race train. What he learns, sees and foils is what follows by way of a riveting plot that, though occasionally slow, picks up most satisfactorily and promises an all round enjoyable tale.
Other characters are nuanced, well written and play their parts admirably. The Edge is perhaps not as fast paced as a lot of Dick Francis' other mysteries but it is a story not to be missed if you like a good, quiet, suspenseful book for a Sunday afternoon read.
I would say this is second-rate Francis, but even second-rate Francis is pretty darn good. Tor Kelsey is a rich young man with no remaining family who grew up in the racing world. He takes a job with the Jockey Club doing security (more like intelligence) work because he is an “invisible man” able to blend in anywhere and observe. And then they put him on a Mystery Race Train across Canada to keep an eye on a villain who has escaped before.
The book is just a bit overstuffed: there’s the train, racing, AND the actors playing out a mystery for the passengers’ entertainment. Plus a cross-Canada travelogue. I felt the research was more obviously dumped in here than is always the case with Francis (but maybe I just noticed it more because the setting is somewhat familiar—I haven’t taken the train across Canada, but my parents have). Some of the details of working on the train crew are fun, but did I need to know the measurements of Union Station in Toronto or how many km/miles it is across Canada? No, I did not.
Still there is lots to enjoy here. Tor is the usual unassuming, intelligent and decent Francis hero, uncertain if he’ll be able to rise to physical heroism when called on (he does, of course). And there are some interesting supporting characters, including Mrs Baudelaire, an elderly lady who acts as his messenger system when he’s on the train, and his boss, Brigadier Catto. Others seem more like caricatures.
My reading experience was enlivened by the library patron who had scribbled caustic comments in the margins. S/he is right that I’ve never heard a Canadian say “eh?” as much as George the conductor (but he’s great) and that some of the privileged characters are let off the hook for their bad behavior. I can’t say I share this reader’s annoyance with Francis heroes, though, even if they are a little too good to be true. Tempted to award a 4th star for the fun this person added to my reading, even if you really should not deface library books.
Haven't read Dick Francis for probably 15 years - very fun to find one I hadn't read. This is a complicated but really good mystery - horses, of course - setting in Canada - involving owners, criminals, disturbed personalities, and a most satisfying conclusion, not without angst, romance, a troupe of actors and train personnel on the side of good.
Yes, five stars for what this is--a good, entertaining listen while I worked around the house. Every cosy mystery writer worth their salt tries their hand at train mystery at some point, and Francis is no exception. James Bond meets Agatha Christie as Our Hero goes undercover to ensure that Canadian racing is kept safe from a British Baddy, while falling in like with a travel agent and befriending a bedridden old lady without ever taking off his disguise. No sex, please--we're British, upstanding and practically perfect in every way. Simon Prebble made this a joy to listen to as always.
I did wonder how Mercer got to be such a rich man while being quite such a softy. I don't know of many multi-millionaires who see the good in everyone; that wouldn't work in the cutthroat world of big business. OK, so he inherited his first millions, but we're meant to believe he's a sharp businessman--and yet he likes everyone and bumbles around not understanding what's happening half the time. Then there's the not-so-endearing trait of sending his problem child off to boarding school in England; I've seen parents do that in my own city and it never helps. I also wondered how a train, even one going at 35 MPH, could slam on the brakes without being heard by someone outside, but let's not get picky. I enjoyed listening to Prebble's superlative reading more than the print book I read many years ago.
Suspense in small doses, nothing severe, and fortunately no scene of Our Hero being tortured or left to freeze, drown or starve. Not really a whodunit this time--more of a "let's make sure no one gets done." Light, crisp mental popcorn.
A Great Transcontinental Mystery Race, a glittering rail junket that not only promises the opportunity to race a thoroughbred on some of the world's great courses, but something more: an intriguing mystery to be enacted on board, which passengers will be invited to solve. But included on the guest list is one Julius Apollo Filmer, justifiably reputed to be the most ruthless operator lurking in the racing underworld, and he's planning a strange plot of his own. For Tor Kelsey, undercover security agent for the British Jockey Club, a scenario of imaginary mayhem is about to explode into a nightmare of real and bloody murder.
Francis creates a strong sense of place and I loved the setting of the Candian Transcontinental Railroad, but the story didn't captivate me as much as others have. I also believe this, a number of future books, was where Francis' writing lost a bit of it's edge.
One of my favorite Francis books. Francis trades the typical setting of the English world for the Canadian countryside, as seen by rail. The hero is, as usual, quietly competent and prone to form sudden and inexplicable romantic connections. The bad guy is nefarious, to be sure, but not quite to psychopathic villain that plagues so many of Francis' other books. The mystery here is rather backwards, as well--the hero and his employers know full well who the bad guy is, and they spend the bulk of the book figuring out what exactly he is up to, how to prove it, and how to put a stop to his crimes. As is often the case with Francis' works, I find thinking that it would have made a pretty compelling movie. Definitely a worthwhile way to kill a few hours.
"Racing related thrillers - Tor Kelsey, undercover security operative for the British Jockey Club is on the case. Tor poses as waiter on a the Great Transcontinental Mystery Race Train. The train is mystery adventure across Canada where there are actors posing as horse owners and passengers and people are not what they seem. Their are various stops along the way where the owners will stop to watch their horses race. Tor has been installed to spy upon Julius Appollo Filmer, who is suspected of murder and blackmail in Britain. But attempted murder and blackmail are happening on the train, right under Tor's nose. All Tor has to do is to get evidence to hold Filmer accountable and convince the others on the train Filmer is not the wholesome character he seems. "
I own all of Dick Francis' books, & recently re-read them all. The Edge sticks in my mind as one of my favourites - but when I read a few of the other reviews, I agreed with many of the points other reviewers made about why this is not one of their favourites. Thinking on it further, the train journey and the scenery described are a big part of why I enjoy this book more than some of his others - I have long hoped to do that trip through the Rockies, one day. I also enjoyed the many details of the mini-world on the train; the staff, the actors staging the mystery, and other passenger interactions.
This book manages the neat trick of being very well written and also incredibly dull. It is mostly set on a luxury train crossing Canada, and most of the narrative involves a description of life on the train. There is very little of the detective work and heroic action that usually features in Francis' books, and very little horsey stuff either. The impression it gives is that Francis was offered a free ride across Canada provided he gave the train a good write up. If so, he certainly fulfilled his brief, and good luck to him. I wish I could get a deal like that.
So much fun to read! A creative and engaging mystery with a unique twist-you know who the villain is from the start, but you are trying to figure out what he's going to do next. Also loved the setting.
I have always loved Dick Francis' books so I was happy to find one that I hadn't read yet. The bonus was that it takes place mainly in Canada. The Canadian Jockey Club hoping to promote Canadian racing arranged for a VIA rail trip from Toronto to Vancouver for race horse owners and their horses. It includes races in Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver as well a stop in Calgary for a trip to Lake Louise. All familiar territory for me.
But one owner Julius Filmer is a ruthless operator who has recently acquired ownership of several horses under extremely suspect circumstances. Undercover for the British Jockey Club Tor Kelsey is posing as part of the trains staff hoping to ward off any trouble and trying to uncover just what Filmer is up to. It is a trip with plenty of bumps on the rails and a finish that is pure Dick Francis.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
One of my favorite Dick Francis heroes, Tor knows how to be invisible in plain sight. As such he is invaluable to the Jockey Club's security branch. But can he ride the Great Transcontinental Mystery Race Train all the way across Canada with the rich sociopath Julius Filmer, without Filmer noticing him? It's the only way anyone can think of to stop Filmer from sabotaging the train. The show must go on as normal, because the press is ballyhooing the train full of rich horse owners.
Tor is an undercover investigator for the British racing authority. Independently wealthy, he pursues his career because of a love of horses and a need to be occupied. He is sent to Canada to try to catch a despicable character who has wrangled his way onto an exclusive train set to take an excursion across Canada. This is no ordinary excursion, as the train carries horses, owners, and high rollers, and there will be stops along the way to participate in very high-powered races.
Lots of good characters, a tidy puzzle, and (of course) gorgeous horses.
I seldom give a Dick Francis book less than 4-Stars and this is no exception. A very interesting theme (The Great Transcontinental Mystery Race Train) with a good plot and lots of extraneous information regarding railroads and trains. I did learn something reading this book that I never knew before. I have always used the term "Lion's Share" when referring to someone who got the largest portion of something, but I never considered where it came from. I learned that, in the jungle, the females (lionesses) do the hunting in packs, while the male lion sits by watching and then comes in for the "lion's share" of the kill. Never know what you're going to learn reading Dick Francis.
2021 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge-a book you meant to read last year.
Not your typical Whodunit as we know who the bad guy is from the beginning. More of a what and how? No less the enjoyable because of that. As usual horses and horseracing play a large part, but a mystery train takes center stage.
Very good story about a guy who works undercover for the British Jockey Club, looking for problems before they happen. He’s sent to Canada to do his thing on a transcontinental mystery race train. Gave it an 8 out of 10.
Any mystery book could be taken from a shelf and be as substandard as The Edge, by Dick Francis. Intriguing mysteries should include: character development that tells a story in of itself, a conflict filled plot where a reader is in suspense, and a climax with a satisfying ending or cliffhanger. In this novel, a young man is assigned to imitate an employee of a train in an attempt to spy on the antagonist who is expected to commit a string of crimes. Since the plot is anticlimactic and the protagonist develops few relationships, this novel is an average story that does not coherently match up to the criteria for an intriguing book.
Throughout the mystery, pages of anticipation eventually lead to an anticlimactic climax and the characters were minimally developed which led to a mediocre story. The suspense of the scandals that loom ahead, never actually occur and the main character only develops two bonds with other characters. Throughout the book, the main character is constantly asked what his job is and how he made his fortune. He deflects these questions which deters him from creating interesting relations from a reader’s perspective. The sole task that the protagonist must compete is preventing the crimes that may transpire. But, the cruel crimes do not take place and rather smaller events occur which leads to the antagonist getting locked up which makes all of the buildup futile. Overall, most of the plot was unnecessary due to the excess amount of suspense and the lack of friendly relationships the protagonist fosters which makes this novel a drab read.
Most of the characteristics that compose an intriguing storyline are lacking in this mystery partly due to the main character’s lifestyle and the humdrum plot. The criteria used to evaluate this book is important as it helps provide a reader with tangible reasons why other books are more immersive. Additionally, all of the characters are apart of an older generation, so a young adult is not able to connect to the cast. Despite this author being world-renowned, there are other mysteries that are more engrossing with characters that readers are able to root for and share emotions with.
When I started reading books in the adult section of the library in the early 1980s, Dick Francis was already a prolific author and all over the shelves. To this day, his books are everywhere to be found, in thrift stores, garage sales, and hand me downs from relatives. Quite a few of them have appeared on our bookshelves. Yet for some reason I never read any his books until the last few years.
Dick Francis has tons of books and all of the dust jackets are pretty much identical. I really didn't have high expectations, which is probably why it took me 30+ years to finally read one. While all of the covers look the same, of the three I have read, all are quite different.
For this one Dick Francis (which is really ex-jockey Richard Francis and his wife, who's name I have already forgotten despite reading it a few minutes ago on Wikipedia) picked a trans-Canada train as the setting. The Francises really did a lot of research and you really learn a lot about trains, the Canadian railroad circa 1986, and the still famous Canadian Rocky Mountain train route. Combine that with a strong plot that moves along at a nice clip and greatly developed characters and you have a real winner.
I am giving this one 5 stars because I can't think of anything else you would want from a novel. Time well spent.
I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery! A friend lent it to me since it involves a cross-Canada (well, Toronto to Vancouver) rail trip and Mr. G and I are leaving tomorrow, travelling VIA Rail Winnipeg to Vancouver. This book has really put me in the mood. It's the second Dick Francis I've read and I expect I will read more whenever I want some easy reading. Tor Kelsey is an undercover investigator for the English Jockey Club and Julius Apollo Filmer is a racecourse villain likely responsible for the murder of a groom. Unfortunately the airtight case broke down when the witnesses were initimidated. Filmer has threatened to get back at the international racing world. In Canada, a Great Canadian Mystery Race Train is being promoted to increase interest in Canadian racing. Horses, owners, racegoers, crew, and a cast of actors will journey together and races will be held in Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver. When it comes to the attention of the Jockey Clubs that Filmer has bought a place on the train, Tor Kelsey is sent to observe and hopefully prevent any unwelcome events. He takes the part of an actor for the staged mystery, pretending to be a dining car waiter. This was a good-paced mystery, suspenseful and with just a touch of romantic interest. A very entertaining read!
Francis does his stuff. His mysteries always relate to horse racing, sometimes tangentially, but in this one it is pretty directly related - Jockey Club security dealing with crooked owners. But with Francis you always get a mashup with something else -- he'll throw in another major part of the plot relating to something entirely different, like glass sculpting, acting, or computer hacking. In this case, he took the normal horse racing mystery and mashed up what seemed to be something out of a Maeve Binchy book - a cross country train trip with a staged mystery. His protagonists always seem to perform above expectations, and that happens here too. It worked for me as a memorable story, although I suspect I won't recall the ending in any kind of detail - the trip literally is the treasure here.