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Book Title: Twice Shy|
The author of the book: Dick Francis
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 2516 times
Reader ratings: 3.7
Edition: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Date of issue: October 5th 2004
ISBN 13: 9780425198773
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 27.99 MB
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Twice Shy may not be the fastest thoroughbred in Dick Francis' stable of thrillers, but it is still more than able to carry the reader on an edge-of-the-seat race to the finish line.
The main setting is still the racetrack, but within this frame of reference the author is branching out into other areas of interest. For me, being more than familiar with the kind of books Francis writes (variations on a successful formula where both the hero and the villains are stereotypes), the only way to tell them apart is by these specialty professions that the underdog hero is engaged in and that somehow will help him overcome the evil guys and solve the mysteries. Here we have physics, Olympic level sharpshooting and early computer programming, with an extra helping of racing stable management and betting systems at the racetrack.
"Twice Shy" has another particularity that sets it apart from the other thrillers in the Francis stable. Basically, the book is made out of two novellas, linked by a common adversary. In the first part, a laidback middle-aged physics professor, passionate about his job but with a marriage on the brink of collapse, somehow gets involved in a betting scam. This Jonathan Derry is also interested in rifle marksmanship, spending a lot of money on gear and shooting range fees.
I liked teaching. Specifically I liked teaching physics, a subject I suppose I embraced with passion and joy, knowing full well that most people shied away in horror. Physics was only the science of the unseen world, as geography was of the seen. Physics was the science of all the tremendously powerful invisibilities - of magnetism, electricity, gravity, light, sound, cosmic rays ... Physics was the science of the mysteries of the universe. How could anyone think it dull?
The passage above is a fine example of why I like Dick Francis : he has an unquenchable curiosity about the world he lives in, both on and off the racetrack. He gets passionate about his subjects, and manages to communicate this passion to the readers. He is also a positive thinker, a ray of sunshine in a cynical society. That doesn't mean he ignores the ugliness and the rat race, it means he doesn't believe the bad guys have the upper hand in the end. As an example of this attitude I have bookmarked a passage about a lesson in Newtonian physics, one where Jonathan uses a rifle to illustrate the point to his pupils:
They never asked how radio waves crossed the ether, which was to me a greater mystery. They asked about destruction, not creation; about power, not symmetry. The seed of violence born in every male child looked out of every face, and I knew how they were thinking, because I'd been there myself.
I am not going to give details about the plot, for one thing because this is not really the strongpoint of a Dick Francis thriller, and for another because I don't want to spoil the outcome. But I will mention that the action is set in the early 80's, and the flavour of the period is brought poignantly to my mind when the author mentions early personal computers that boot the operating system from a cassette tape, have only a few kilobytes of memory, and use mostly a text interface. This is how I started to learn programming (I even used an earlier FORTRAN system where I had to punch cardboard rectangles on a special machine and run them through a machine that was as big a a wardrobe) and how I played my first games, so the nostalgic Force is strong in this one:
I was listening to the noise a computer produced when its programs were recorded onto ordinary cassette type.
One surprise that I didn't see in advance was that the story of Jonathan Derry is practically wrapped up by the midpoint of the book. A second story involving Jonathan's much younger brother picks up the thread of those dangerous computer cassettes about 15 years later. William Derry is a different personality from his restrained older brother. He abandons a higher education for a career in racing ("Security, William said, was a dirty word. There were better things in life than a safe job.") , he lives the life of a rover, never settling in any one place or in any particular relationship. But even rovers get older, and when William has to give up racing, he lands a great job as an administrator / manager for a big American owner of thoroughbreds. William has now a great job, a racy girlfriend and, finally, a house where he thinks of putting down roots, but a spectre from the past mugs him in his own front yard. The man his older brother Jonathan put in jail for long years is now out on parole and convinced he was swindled out of a fortune by the Derry brothers. William tries to defuse the situation, but he has little success with logic and common sense against the burning hatred of this baddie.
Historically, it's seldom a good idea to appease a tyrant.
Personally, I believe there would be no story here, if only William had gone to the police with what he knew. But that is not the style of a Dick Francis hero. These guys are self-reliant, resourceful and full of determination not to be trampled under the boots of said tyrants. William is no exception and, with a little more info-dumps about computer programming, he gets the job done.
I will close my review as usual with a passage about the first and most enduring love in the life of Dick Francis: horses and racing, the subject that defines him an gives him his inimitable flavour.
I loved the Heath in the early mornings with the manes blowing under the wide skies. My affection for horses was so deep and went back so far that I couldn't imagine life without them. They were a friendly foreign nation living in our land, letting their human neighbours tend them and feed them, accepting them as servants as much as masters. Fast, fascinating, essentially untamed, they were my landscape, my old shoes, the place to where my heart returned, as necessary to me as the sea to sailors.
I will continue to read and re-read these books, even as I acknowledge they are sometimes not up to the usual high standards I have come to expect. I guess I should make a shelf called comfort reads: easy pieces that pick me up on a rainy afternoon with noting to do and too little energy for heavier fiction.
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Read information about the authorDick Francis CBE (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."
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