The Edge

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Former jockey Dick Francis has earned an international reputation as a best-selling writer with his entertaining mysteries set in the milieu he knows best. THE EDGE is Francis’ twenty-seventh novel, and it carries on in the tautly paced and highly readable tradition of his earlier books. This time out, the setting is the racetracks of Canada and a specially chartered train carrying a group of wealthy owners and their horses to a series of races designed to promote the sport. Into this world of luxury and privilege comes a potential viper: Julius Apollo Filmer, an owner who has left a trail of unexplained deaths in his wake. British Jockey Club agent Tor Kelsey boards the train disguised as a waiter and attempts to unravel the mysteries surrounding several of its passengers as a series of dangerous mishaps plagues the trans-Canadian excursion.

Kelsey also serves as the book’s narrator. An independently wealthy young man who works for the Jockey Club out of a lifelong love of horses and racing, Kelsey is a resourceful and engaging sleuth. His powers are put to the test on board the train, where Francis adds another layer of complication to his story in the form of a theatrical murder mystery presented in stages for the passengers’ entertainment by a troupe of actors also traveling on the train. Francis populates his story with a number of interesting characters, including the disturbed son of one of the owners, the train’s amiable conductor, and the gravely ill mother of Kelsey’s Canadian contact, who serves as the crucial telephone link between Kelsey and her son.

Francis also succeeds in capturing the atmosphere and details of a railway journey, using the train itself to add to the story’s suspense as it builds toward its surprising conclusion. THE EDGE is a thoroughly enjoyable tale, told with all of the tension twists, and sharp dialogue that have made Francis one of the most popular of current mystery writers.