After his friend is killed in a horse-racing accident, up-and-coming glass artisan Gerard Logan finds himself embroiled in a deadly search for a stolen videotape--a videotape that just might destroy his own life.
Francis's latest may be one of his less memorable rides, but even at 80, the old master proves he can still go all out in the final stretch. The hero here is Gerard Logan, a dashing English bachelor who owns and operates his own glassblowing shop in a charming village in the Cotswolds, popular with other artisans and tourists. Logan's problem is that his good friend, jockey Martin Stukely, gave him a videotape shortly before dying in a fall during a steeplechase at Cheltenham racetrack. That videotape is now missing, stolen by a tall, bearded gent who made off with it while Logan's back was turned. Now, a crew of thugs wants the tape. They are led by the cruel, aptly named Rose Payne, a ruthless bookmaker who knows what's on the tape--medical breakthrough secrets worth millions--and will do anything to get it. Logan tries to reason with Payne, saying he no longer has the video, and besides, he doesn't even know what it contains. But Rose won't give up. She and her crew beat up Logan on several occasions, viciously trying to break his wrists so he can no longer practice his craft. Logan, no slouch when it comes to payback, finally mounts an all-out defense that includes not only physical reprisals, but also a crafty recovery of the missing object. Francis's 41st novel (To the Hilt; 10 Lb Penalty; etc.) lacks the pounding drive of his best efforts, and several elements of the plot are hard to swallow without cutting the author a lot of slack. Yet the spirited repartee, cleverly laid cues, infectiously likable characters and bang-up finale are all vintage Francis, and the fascinating glimpses the novel furnishes into the glassblowing trade are a bonus. 300,000 first printing.