(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

While Neil Griffon, the protagonist of Bonecrack, is substituting for his father as the head of Rowley Lodge, a racing stable in Newmarket, England, he is kidnaped by Enso Rivera, an international fence based in Bastagnola, Switzerland. Rivera threatens to destroy the stable if Griffon does not take on his son as a jockey and allow him to ride Archangel (the stable’s prize thoroughbred) in the Derby.

Soon after Alessandro Rivera, the son, arrives at the stable, chauffeured in a Mercedes limousine by Carlo, one of Enso’s thugs who kidnaped Griffon, the major conflict in the novel becomes clear. The battle is between Griffon and Enso Rivera for the allegiance of Alessandro.

Alessandro is an only child, spoiled and arrogant. At first he refuses to take care of the horses he rides during the daily exercise routines. Etty Craig, the head stable hand, is disturbed by this and complains to Neil. Because Enso Rivera has warned him against telling anyone, including the police, about his threat, Neil mollifies her to give himself time to figure out how to deal with the situation. His father, Neville, in the hospital with a broken leg, wants him to hire the experienced John Bredon to run the stable, but Neil puts him off, keeping him in the dark as to why he himself is staying on at Rowley Lodge. He cannot even confide in his girlfriend Gillie, who lives in his house in Hampstead.

Neil bides his time. Noticing that Alessandro is a talented rider with a genuine feel for the profession, he patiently attempts to guide the boy away from his egomania—and the influence of his criminal father—by controlling which horses he rides and by teaching him the finer points of becoming a jockey. He points out to him that he cannot ride in any races unless he signs an apprenticeship agreement, cosigned by his father and witnesses. Though difficult and reluctant, Alessandro gradually goes along with Neil’s demands.


(The entire section is 800 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Bauska, Barry. “Endure and Prevail: The Novels of Dick Francis,” in Armchair Detective. II, no. 3 (1978), p. 238.

Callendar, Newgate. Review in The New York Times Book Review. LXVI (May 21, 1972), p. 30.

Foote, Timothy. Review in Time. May 22, 1972, p. 96.

Larkin, Philip. “Four Legs Good,” in The Times Literary Supplement. October 10, 1980.

The New Yorker. Review. XLVIII (July 22, 1972), p. 80.

Stanton, Michael N. “Dick Francis: The Worth of Human Love,” in Armchair Detective. XV, no. 2 (1982), p. 137.

Weeks, Brigitte. “Writing Mystery Novels: An Interview with Dick Francis,” in The Writer. XCVI (August, 1983), p. 11.