(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

STRAIGHT is Francis’ twenty-eighth mystery novel and again he proves how solid a practitioner of the genre he is. The protagonist and narrator, Derek Franklin, is given the news that his brother Greville has been accidentally killed and that he must, therefore, take over Greville’s gem business. Derek, a jockey nearing the end of his career and nursing an ankle injury, plunges himself into straightening out his brother’s affairs. The author is in top form in revealing how Derek--a character out of his element--struggles to find his footing, learning the hard way about the consequences of misplaced trust.

It is discovered that Greville has purchased a large number of diamonds, which are now missing. If they are not found, the business will go bankrupt. Meanwhile, because Derek is a jockey, it is necessary for him to sell his racehorses rather than keep them for himself; in England, jockeys are not allowed to own racehorses. While dealing with all of this as best he can, Derek is also confronted with the fact that Greville was having an affair with a married woman. Derek finds himself in the position of taking over every aspect of Greville’s life.

Derek can be described as an honest and fair individual. He has always been known as someone who runs a straight race, but the competition he must face now only knows how to cheat and run a crooked race. It takes everything he has not to be destroyed by his newfound enemies. STRAIGHT is a wonderful read except for the ending, which falls somewhat flat. Everything up to that point, though, is fresh and full of intrigue and as effectively presented as any of Francis’ previous novels.