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Wild Horses    by Dick Francis order for
Wild Horses
by Dick Francis
Order:  USA  Can
Pocket, 1999 (1994)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio
* * *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Anyone familiar with mysteries probably knows of Dick Francis, but readers who assume that his books are only about racing are mistaken. Thomas Lyon, the protagonist of this well-crafted tale, is indeed an ex-rider, but he is now a rising star in the film world, and currently directing an adaptation of a best-selling novel. In the story, the novel is based on an unsolved mystery: the very young wife of an equally young Newmarket trainer was found hanged in a horse stall a quarter of a century ago.

Having read several of Francis's mysteries, I am an admirer of his writing: his plots are complex, beautifully detailed, and logically developed; his characters are always interesting, and the protagonists are admirable for their unswerving integrity. His writing is clean and precise; Francis can paint a rich image in a few concise sentences. In Wild Horses he demonstrates these talents yet again, this time with two parallel story-lines: Lyon's struggles with the film, and escalating problems caused by an unknown, deadly adversary determined to stop the production. Clearly, reviving this old scandal is threatening someone's peace of mind, and that mysterious someone is taking murderous steps to remove the threat.

Thomas Lyon is a likeable character, and the author gives him no rest, throwing a plague of difficulties his way. Even without the complications of an unknown enemy, Lyon has his hands full, dealing with a prima donna writer, cost-conscious producers, and a host of actors, extras, and production people, as well as the demands of his own artistic vision. Once he accepts the connection between his own film (which is taking a direction totally different from novel, much to the rage of the writer) and the long-unsolved murder, Lyon realizes he must unravel the truth, not only to save the film but also his own life.

The resolution is totally satisfying, showcasing the protagonist's strength of character and artistic talents. The unfolding of Lyon's film Unstable Times is perhaps even more fascinating to follow than the murder mystery itself; the final scene is spell-binding. Francis has outdone himself in Wild Horses. It's a shame that the fictional film Lyon is directing will never be seen in a real theatre.

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