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Shattered    by Dick Francis order for
by Dick Francis
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2000 (2000)
Hardcover, Audio

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This follows a typical Francis format, in which he selects an interesting profession and a protagonist who pursues excellence in it and at the same time has a link to horse racing. It's an unusual occupation this time - Gerard Logan is a glass-blower and artist, able to command a high price for his creations. The link with the races is one of friendship between Gerard and jockey Martin Stukely and horse racing plays a very small part in the novel after Martin's early demise in a bad steeplechase fall.

Martin had left a mysterious videotape with his valet to pass to Gerard for safekeeping. He does receive it but it's stolen very promptly. As often happens in these tales, the villains are after our hero for something he hasn't got, he's in the dark about their motivations and spends the rest of the story working it all out with persistence and courage in the face of brutal attacks. Francis lays a few false trails and plays sleight of hand in moving not one but three videotapes around to mystify the reader.

The author's final ingredient for success is also present in this story - the romantic interest. I must say that I like this one - Catherine is a young policewoman in leathers and riding a motorbike. Unfortunately Francis does not pull her into the action, she's more of a solace and a sounding board than a participant. He does bow to political correctness in making his chief villain a woman, a thorny character named Rose.

Though small in stature, Rose is definitely a 'heavy' and attacks recklessly. Which is where I had a real problem with this story. The police are not involved even after several attacks by Rose and her gang - one involving the gassing of children to unconsciousness and another an attempted murder with clear evidence. It is just too improbable that their only participation would be the occasional chat between Gerard and Catherine.

Aside from that logical chasm, Shattered was an enjoyable escape with all the usual elements that we've come to expect from this author. Though his recent offerings have not been up to the standard of early books like Nerve or Slay-Ride, this time of year would just not be the same for me without a new Dick Francis to read.

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