No Reserve by Felix Francis

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No Reserve by Felix Francis

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A young auctioneer finds himself selling the most expensive colt of the day - and then getting involved in more trouble than he bargained for. A good, if not exceptional, read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: September 2023
Publisher: Zaffre
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1804183212

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Thirty-four-year-old Theo Jennings shouldn't have been on the rostrum when the colt - as yet unnamed - came up for auction, but Peter Radway, the chairman, hadn't arrived, so he continued his session. To say that he was shocked when the bidding reached three million pounds would be an understatement. A lovely animal - but three million pounds? Two men had been bidding against each other. Brian Kitman and Elliot 'Mitch' Mitchell were well-known and respected in the racing industry. Jennings was in one of the cubicles in the toilets when the two men came in and their conversation revealed that the horse had been deliberately bid up to that figure. Both were happy that they had insurance in place. The following morning, the horse was dead in its stall.

Peter Radway didn't seem unduly bothered by what Theo told him of the conversation. Was Jennings confident that this was what he'd heard? Could he have been mistaken? Could it have been two other men? Where was the proof? There wasn't enough evidence to take action - it would simply be Jennings' word against Kitman and Mitchell's. Theo's not about to let the matter rest.

Something else he's not going to let rest is his interest in Janis Thompson from accounts. Theo's not that experienced with women and Janis, despite being twenty-eight, still lives at home with her parents and brother and they rule her with a rod of iron. She has strict curfews and has to account for where she is and who she's with. Admittedly the family lives in Soham (remember Ian Huntley?) but the level of control still seems excessive and you have to wonder why Janis hasn't rebelled a bit more.

Many years ago I used to enjoy reading the novels by Felix Francis's father, the late Dick Francis, but the charm wore off when I realised that they were pretty formulaic and you could predict which way they'd go. When I read Front Runner by Felix Francis I had great hopes that all that had changed but I did wonder if the series was reverting to type as I read No Reserve. It's a reasonably good plot with a neat piece of financial skullduggery at its heart but I was never in any doubt as to how it would work out. I also found what seemed like padding with miscellaneous historical facts to be a little annoying.

OK, I'm being very picky. Francis is well up to speed on the workings of the horseracing industry and I got a real feel for how a firm of auctioneers operates. Research has obviously been very thorough and - despite my reservations - I found No Reserve to be a good, quick read. I'd like to thank the publishers for letting Bookbag have a review copy.

If some short stories about horse racing would appeal, we enjoyed Going To The Last: Short Stories About Horse Racing by K D Knight.

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