“The Danger” was the first Dick Francis book I read, so it seems fitting to finish off this year’s Goodreads reading challenge by reviewing it.
In “The Danger,” Francis breaks his usual MO by making the jockey, not the hero, but the woman whom the hero has to save. The hero himself is a kidnap negotiations expert, brought in to help with the return of Alessia Cenci, Europe’s hottest female flat jockey. This, through roundabout ways, plunges him into a horse-related kidnapping ring.
After the spare, slender books of the 1970s, Francis began putting out meatier volumes in the 1980s, and “The Danger” is one of his solidest and meatiest, with the action moving over several months from Italy to England to Washington, DC, as Andrew (the hero) works on a series of cases, before finally becoming the victim himself. Like many of the books from that period, the plot moves at an almost leisurely pace, before suddenly bursting into action sequences that in “The Danger” are more about the tension of possibilities that aggressive hand-to-hand fighting; Andrew is one of Francis’s more cerebral heroes, and he solves his problems mainly with his mind and his mouth rather than his fists. This does not prevent the ending from being, as the front blurb of my copy says, a “pure thriller!” The thrill, though, is as much in the interpersonal relations that are a highlight of this book as it is in the action. In “The Danger,” as in several of the other family dramas from this periods such as “Hot Money,” Francis shows himself to be no mean psychologist as well as a keen observer of both physical and mental realities. If you’re already a Francis fan you’re pretty much guaranteed to enjoy “The Danger”; if you are not yet a Francis fan, this book is an excellent place to start.