Driving Force

Dick Francis, a former jockey himself, has carved out a marvelous career as a mystery writer, with more than thirty novels to his credit. Never one to overwrite, Francis has won a loyal following by writing about what he knows with precision and clarity of purpose. His mysteries always revolve around some aspect of horse racing, and in DRIVING FORCE, he focuses on the horse transport business. The hero of the novel is Freddie Croft, a former steeplechase jockey and now the owner of a successful fleet of horse vans. It has been Croft’s rule that his drivers should never pick up a hitchhiker when they are escorting valuable horses to their destination, but on one particular occasion a hitchhiker is given a ride and the events that follow put Croft’s life in danger. The hitchhiker dies while riding in one of Croft’s vans. An investigation into the mysterious death leads to the discovery of containers under a number of his vans. Croft suspects that some sort of smuggling has been taking place under his nose.

The mechanic who discovered the containers turns up dead, and Croft realizes that what is happening is larger than anything that he can handle alone. Nina, an investigator from Jockey Club Security, is given the assignment of working undercover within Croft’s transport business. The more Croft becomes involved in looking into who or what is behind the suspicious events, the more he and his business are at risk. A computer virus destroys the firm’s records, and Croft is almost killed by drowning. Before the conspiracy can be untangled, Francis builds the suspense to an appropriate boil. With a wonderful mix of eccentric and complex characters — and just the proper amount of local color and expertise in various technical subjects — Francis has again succeeded in creating a first-rate mystery.