Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bolt by Dick Francis

In which jockey Kit Fielding deals with international intrigue and family feuds while racing horses and fighting to keep the woman he loves.

Bolt is a mystery/thriller story set in the context of English horse racing. The main character, Kit Fielding, is a professional jockey whose boss's husband is being hounded by a shady character who wants him to compromise his integrity for profit. The boss and her husband, being somewhat less than worldly, ask Kit to help them deal with the intrigue. Kit is revealed to be adept at dealing with intrigue from a lifetime of practice dealing with a Capulet and Montague type ancient family feud. This book follows the maneuvering between Kit and his friends and the shady businessman and his pawns.

I sought out a Dick Francis book on Goodread's book swap because I read a lot of Dick Francis books when I was maybe about 14 and I wondered if I would still really like them. Turns out, I do! I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I wonder if all of my 14 year old book tastes were that good? I seem to recall feeling like all of Francis's books had basically the same main character with a different name and maybe different superficial characteristics, but for now I will give him the benefit of the doubt and go forward as if Kit Fielding in Bolt is unique.

I just discovered two distressing facts while looking for cover images of Bolt. Sadly, Dick Francis died in 2010 so we can expect no new novels from him. Also, apparently Bolt is a sequel to Break In, in which the family feud drama is apparently the main story. I didn't feel like I was missing information in Bolt. Francis must have thoroughly mentioned all relevant facts from Break in! Maybe I will go back and read that one too.

The best part of Bolt was not the story so much as the characters. They all seemed like they could be real people, but also (for the protagonists at least) like people you would really want to know. The first person narrative helps make Kit Fielding seem cool, collected, amusing, resourceful and clever. His insight, loyalty and ingenuity are what makes the story compelling I think.

I was struck by how much like a Matthew Woodring Stover character Kit was! It's weird and I'm not exactly sure why, but he read like a 20th century, English Caine. It's a very calm and reserved setting, but even with that said Kit and Caine are so similar in the way they fight and just refuse not to win really hard no matter what. Otherwise, the authors, books, settings and fanbases could not possibly be more different.

I definitely recommend this book to fans of mystery or action type fiction. It's not a book just for mystery lovers (or, obviously, horse racing enthusiasts). I would think it would appeal to anyone wanting compelling characters and an engaging story.

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