Hot Money

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Horse racing again provides the backdrop for Francis’ latest mystery. Ian Pembroke, who works in the racing trade as a training assistant and amateur jockey, serves as the narrator for the story. His estranged father, Malcolm Pembroke, calls upon him for help when his soon-to-be former wife Moira is murdered, and the two of them are forced to trust each other. Malcolm is a man who has the Midas touch, but he has not done well at picking wives or engendering the love of his children. The police consider Malcolm himself a suspect in the murder of Moira, because their impending divorce would have made her a rich and independent woman.

The extended family of former wives, sons, daughters, and grandchildren are also prime suspects, and Francis takes great care to expose the hatred and envy that exist under the surface. Ian becomes the only person whom Malcolm can fully trust, and he orders Malcolm to stay out of sight until the culprit can be caught. As evidence is collected by Ian, Malcolm becomes intrigued with the racing game and buys some horses that he believes will be good investments. Malcolm’s Midas touch holds, and he successfully follows the horse-racing circuit from California to Australia.

While Malcolm is away, Ian interviews all the family members in an attempt to flush out the murderer. The urgency is great; before Malcolm left the United States, the family mansion was blown up and would have killed both Ian and his father if not for a stroke of luck. By the end of the novel, Ian has uncovered all the old wounds, and the killer is trapped. Through Ian’s investigation, members of the family have been forced to come to terms with themselves and their relationship to Malcolm. This complex and masterful tale comes to a close with the family members, including Malcolm and Ian, more at peace with their identities and what the future holds for them.