Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Longshot, by Dick Francis


One of Dick Francis' better books. Not a lot of action, and because of the nature of the villains' tactics, what action there is tends to play out more as man vs. circumstances more than man vs. man. Still, John Kendall is one of my favorite Francis characters (unassuming and capable, as Francis leads tend to be), and I enjoy the slow build of tension over the course of the book.

Like Koontz and others, Francis often falls into the cliche of the insanely evil villain--atrocious acts committed by individuals who are clearly deranged. I tend to see this as a pretty lazy choice and prefer everyday villains. We all of us have the capacity for evil, and the more sympathetic and complex villains remind us of that. The maniacal villain seldom makes for a compelling story, and Francis is at his best when he resists the impulse to sidestep a more legitimate motive in favor of "because he/she is crazy."

That being said (and I hope this does not constitute a spoiler), this book avoids the cliched pyscho killer pitfall. Which is probably a large part of why it ranks among my favorite Dick Francis novels.

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