In an uncertain world, it is reassuring to have some things upon which one can utterly depend, and Dick Francis falls squarely into that category.
Set in the English racing town of Newmarket, his 33rd book, Wild Horses, bursts out of the gate with 30-year-old filmmaker Thomas Lyon visiting a dying friend, a blacksmith, who makes a startling deathbed confession, Lyon happens to be in Newmarket directing a movie about the puzzling real-life hanging of a trainer's wife a quarter of a century earlier. Seemingly unconnected at first, these two narrative strands gradually become intertwined. Lyon attempts to unravel the meaning of the confession and, at the same time, to uncover the truth about the long-ago hanging, placing himself—and his film—in danger.
A typical Francis protagonist, Lyon is resilient and indestructible. Also typical is the crisp language and brisk pace of the novel, but the ride can be a bumpy one at times. The story line is hard to follow, the insights into the world of filmmaking are superficial, and romance, once a chaste but charming aspect of his work, seems almost an afterthought here. Still and all, wild horses couldn't keep the Francis faithful away from this or any future turns around the track with the master at the reins. (Putnam, $22.95)