Under Orders by Dick Francis
Published: 2007.08.07 by Berkeley
Amazon :: Kindle Edition
It figures that my first book review on this blog would be for a novel I didn’t like very much. “Under Orders” is a crime fiction set in and around London, England with a strong horse racing theme pervading the story. Think Magnum PI meets Seabiscuit. Only replace Magnum with a proper English former jockey.
Mysteries are a genre of fiction I tend to avoid. I find they’re usually formulaic and predictable. “Under Orders” was no exception. So why did I even pick it up? Well, here in Nevis there is only one book shop with a limited selection of books. I knew this coming in, so I brought a stockpile of books with me. Unfortunately the stockpile is running low earlier than expected and I’m soon going to be desperate for new good books. I found “Under Orders” just laying around so I decided to read it before my stockpile runs out completely (and to take up some time while I wait for a shipment of new books to come in from Amazon)
Another reason I don’t like mysteries is that whenever I pick one up I find myself in the middle of an ongoing series. Apparently Dick Francis rarely used recurring characters so it would be just my luck that the book I randomly grabbed was the last of four books featuring the same protagonist – Sid Halley – the ex-jockey. As you would expect, being the last book in a series, there wasn’t a lot of backstory but there was just enough that a new reader (like me) could follow along.
Sid Halley was a champion jockey who was forced to give up racing due to an injury to his hand and has turned to sleuthing to make a living. He later lost the hand completely to a bad guy. Now he feels sorry for himself for being a one-handed private investigator instead of a champion jockey. All the feeling-sorry-for-himself got old fast and the novel spent far too much time dwelling on the mundanity of his life.
I don’t like to give spoilers so I won’t give details of the plot – but as I said it’s a predictable mystery so you already know what happens: some people (and a horse) are killed, the PI investigates, the police won’t cooperate, the PI and his loved ones are threatened by the baddies, the PI figures it all out and has a big confrontation with the bad guy in the climax. The end.
Yes it’s your everyday, average crime fiction. Still don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not saying it was terrible. I did, after all, give it 2.5 piggies on my new rating system (which I’m quite proud of I have to say). It was mildly entertaining – it could be a good book for reading on a beach holiday, on a flight or anytime you’re looking for some mindless entertainment. Or if you’re a big fan of crime fiction. Just don’t expect to read anything new or groundbreaking.