Life has changed for me enough lately that I can now participate in the book discussion groups at my public library. The book for October is Reflex by Dick Francis and I'm thrilled that it spurred me to a reread of this great mystery.
When I began reading mysteries (about 5th grade) I was fortunate that the first three authors I read were Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Dick Francis. These remain the standards by which all other mysteries I read are judged. Tough acts to follow!
In Reflex, as with all Dick Francis novels, we are plunged into the world of British horse racing. Our hero is Phillip Norse, a 2nd tier jockey who had a very unconventional childhood because his mother constantly left him with other people to raise. He has no idea who his father was and his maternal grandmother has always refused to acknowledge his existence. He learned his two passions in life, photography and horse racing, from two of the couples that his mother left his with.
Our story begins with two events. His grandmother decides she wants to see him and one of the most prominent racing photographers is killed in a car accident.
These two events change Phillip's life. Phillip learns from his grandmother that he has a sister and if he can find her, the grandmother will leave all her money to this unknown sister. He gets involved in the death of the photographer because of his friendship with the photographer's son. It becomes clear that the photographer did not always make people happy with his pictures.
Phillip has a number of ingenious mysteries and puzzles to solve. They are really very clever and entertaining to read about. Through them all he has to come to grips with his own code of ethics. How far is he willing to go for justice and for the good of the racing world? He also has to come to grips with his own need to keep people at bay. Can he open up and let people into his life? There is great character development as he explores these questions. Every solution to every mystery is satisfying. I find this book to be a superb mystery from an author who would have been a master of any genre he had decided to write.