(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

With more than thirty books to his credit, Dick Francis has become a mystery writer with few equals. Almost as a matter of course, his novels rise to the top of the best-seller list upon publication. Once a jockey himself, Francis uses horse racing as an anchor for his various plots. In DECIDER, the story revolves around a racecourse that has seen better days. The family that owns the racecourse must come to a decision on what should become of it. Lord Stratton has died and left his heirs at one another’s throats. The narrator, Lee Morris, is a thirty-five-year-old architect who specializes in the restoration of old homes. He and his wife have six sons, and during each restoration, his family is housed inside a double-decker bus that has been made inhabitable. Morris’ mother had been married at one time to one of Lord Stratton’s sons, and Lord Stratton saw fit to include shares in the racecourse in the settlement when the two got divorced.

Because of a sordid past involving the mistreatment of his mother by her husband at the time, Lee Morris finds himself a stockholder in the Stratton Park Racecourse. Francis has created a devious and sinister brood in the Strattons. The matriarch, Marjorie Stratton, seems to be the only member of the family who is forthright and decent. Morris involves himself in the family argument, since he is a shareholder also and has a right to vote his conscience. Before long, though, he and his sons find their lives threatened—they are in the racecourse’s grandstands when a bomb explodes. Morris is positive that one or more of the Strattons is behind the bombing. With intelligent cunning, Morris pushes toward a resolution. As usual with a Francis mystery, the plot is paced with care. The culprit is dealt with accordingly, and Morris can get back to building and being the best father possible. No Francis mystery would be complete without the proper respect being paid to horses and to horse racing. DECIDER will not disappoint the millions of devoted readers of Francis, and may even win over a few new converts to his particular brand of mystery.