Silks, by Dick Francis and Felix Francis

My dad’s visit means that I have taken a few days off from stressing about my dissertation. We’ve been incredibly active (for us) during the day, and then collapsing in his hotel in the evenings. When we collapse, we read. So I finally read Silks.

It’s not the best Dick Francis book ever – and I can say that having read every book he’s written, usually multiple times. It’s not bad, of course, but it’s not as good as Banker or Hot Money or Proof or the one about the toy-maker whose title I always forget (even though now I want to re-read it. I should add it to the list!) or many of the others. It has the same flaws that I noticed in the meteorologist one (whose title I am also blanking on): there are times when it feels like a collection of “things that worked before” rather than an organically new story. I think it’s better than the meteorologist one – it’s closer to the racing world, for one thing – and the retreads are less obvious, but they’re still there. It actually reminded me a bit of Twice Shy.  Not a bad thing – I enjoy Twice Shy quite a lot – but definitely some of the same themes. Mostly the intimidation/organized crime idea, and some in the time-jumping.

Stylistically, it was also less subtle (for lack of a better word) than the early-to-mid-career books. At the beginning, at least, I was very aware that there were two people writing the book. That feeling faded as I got further into it, but there were a few points at the beginning where I was almost able to separate out the son’s writing from the father’s. It just wasn’t as smooth in the story-telling as the early-to-mid-career books were – probably a factor of Dick Francis’s age and health as well as the (explicit) collaboration.

I did enjoy it, though – I don’t want to imply that I didn’t. Any new Dick Francis book is better than no new Dick Francis book, at least for now. It took me a bit to get into it (as it did for the meteorologist one), but once I was, I needed to know the resolution. I would read it again, too. Not right away, and not instead of books like Banker  or Proof or High Stakes (is that the toymaker one? or is that the South African guy one? I can never remember….) or some of the others that I really like, but in my periodic Dick Francis reread weeks (every year or so I go through pretty much all the books), I’ll put it somewhere in the middle, I think.

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