‘Refusal’ by Felix Francis


Six years after investigator Sid Halley’s retirement, a request from racing authority chairman Sir Richard Stewart looks like pushing Sid back into the sleuthing game. But the former jockey-turned-detective has no desire to revive a line of work that got him shot, beaten up and thrown in the path of danger on a regular basis. With his wife and daughter to think about, Sid makes it clear he’s not interested in checking out a series of dodgy races. But when Sir Richard turns up dead, Sid may have to reconsider, and that’s before a mysterious Irishman starts making threatening phone calls.

After co-authoring a few books with Francis senior, Dick’s son Felix took up his father’s mantle in 2011 with his first novel ‘Gamble’. This is the fourth (of eight) and is also the fifth book featuring Sid Halley.

Years ago, I had a Dick Francis novel that sat on my bookshelf untouched for months, purely because I thought a book centred around horseracing wouldn’t interest me. So it was pure chance that I happened across ‘Refusal’ on Amazon while perusing something completely different. Though the first few pages intrigued me, I still wasn’t certain it was my cup of jockey’s tea, so opting for the audiobook version, I allowed the marvellous Martin Jarvis to garner my interest.

‘Refusal’ is a stonking good yarn that gives its hero plenty to keep him busy. With murder, kidnapping and arson on the agenda, the poor man is thrown from one impossible situation into another, with a villainous Irishman hovering over his shoulder at every turn. The plot spirals into a thrilling denouement where Halley’s future, and that of his family, could easily go up in flames.

Some knowledge of horseracing and betting might clarify the plot, but for a novice like me, these details are clearly explained by the author without over-egging the steeplechase custard. A great story with that’ll appeal to anyone who loves a mystery.

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