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Overview

Architect Lee Morris has plans to restore Stratton Park racecourse to its former grandeur. But the combative Stratton heirs have violent plans of their own.

New York Times bestselling author Dick Francis presents the thrilling story of architect Lee Morris who inherits a partial ownership in the Stratton Park racecourse--and with it, a dangerous position among the warring upper-class family trying to settle its fate.

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Decider

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Overview

Architect Lee Morris has plans to restore Stratton Park racecourse to its former grandeur. But the combative Stratton heirs have violent plans of their own.

New York Times bestselling author Dick Francis presents the thrilling story of architect Lee Morris who inherits a partial ownership in the Stratton Park racecourse--and with it, a dangerous position among the warring upper-class family trying to settle its fate.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times
Gripping.
Philadelphia Inquirer
One of his best.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Dick Francis knows horses, but in this deeply satisfying novel of intrigue, he shows that he also has a handle on architecture, construction, even crowd control. Narrator Lee Morris, 35, is an architect/builder specializing in restoring ``ruins'' like his own splendid barn house inhabited by his six sons and his lovely, but increasingly remote, wife. He is also one of few shareholders in Stratton Park racecourse, ownership of which is being hotly contested by the heirs of Lord Stratton. Lee's mother had married and quickly divorced the baron's vicious son Keith. Since part of her divorce settlement included the racecourse stock, Lee accompanied by his five eldest sons attends a shareholders meeting. With few exceptions the Strattons are a very nasty crew--cheats, blackmailers, just plain vicious--and during the course of the fight over selling or restoring the track, Lee is beaten, nearly blown up and finally forced to race to save his sons at the excruciating climax. Francis's deft plotting and sharp characterization are, as usual, on the mark: both Lee and his progeny are realistic and appealing. And as usual, he excels in exposing some of England's nastier class habits, meanwhile affirming the morality of his protagonist. BOMC main selection; QPB alternate; Reader's Digest selection; author tour. Oct.
Library Journal
Meet Lee Morris, an architect with six children and a small share in a successful racetrack, Stratton Park. Morris becomes embroiled in the excitement of the racetrack and a fight for its control. This is the last thing he ought to become involved in, especially considering the many skeletons in the Stratton family closets. The personalities in Francis's Driving Force , Audio Reviews, LJ 4/1/93; Proof , Audio Reviews, LJ 4/15/93 tale are strong and the action swift. Simon Jones narrates well, and the abridgment is unobtrusive. This will do well in general collections.-- Miriam Kahn, Columbus, Ohio
Emily Melton
The newest entry is this popular series once again features Francis' signature horseracing theme. Architect Lee Morris has been a stockholder in Stratton Park racecourse ever since his mother inherited shares as part of a divorce settlement. When track-owner Lord Stratton dies, he leaves his heirs bitterly divided about the park's future. The younger scions want it razed so big-bucks developers can make their mark (and pay handsomely for the prime real estate). The older relatives want to preserve it intact. The course manager wants it modernized: changing rooms for the female jockeys, elevators, and comfortable seats. Lee finds himself unwillingly drawn into the family dispute when someone blows up the grandstand. Convinced that one of the Strattons is behind the dastardly crime, Lee is determined to find out which one--and save the racetrack for future racing enthusiasts. Francis has created a strong supporting cast of Stratton characters--irresponsible grandson Dart, vindictive son Keith, temperamental Rebecca, and indomitable matriarch Marjorie--set against the intelligent, admirable hero. The plot is entertainingly cunning and effectively paced if not highly original. And there's even some pleasantly, witty Francis-style humor, mostly involving Lee's attempts at parenting. A master manipulator of the formula plot, Francis has created yet another odds on winner. Bet on it.
Kirkus Reviews
Francis's newest suspenser (his 32nd) is typical not only in its racetrack setting, but in its doubling of the hero's mildly dysfunctional family (he and his diffident wife are held together only by their brood of six sons) with another family of deep-dyed villains. Because his mother Madeline was once married into the fractious Stratton family, owners of the Stratton Park racecourse, architect/ builder Lee Morris, a restorer of ruined houses, owns a small number of voting shares in the course. His long-standing revulsion from Madeline's wife-beating first husband Keith Stratton has kept him away from the family—especially from his half-sister Hannah, a child of marital rape—and, despite the pleas of course manager Roger Gardner, he intends to keep his distance even when Keith's father, Lord William Stratton, dies. But an invitation to a meeting of the shareholders leads to an unexpected request from matriarchal Marjorie Binsham, William's sister—to look into the question of whether the outdated grandstands really need replacing—and while he's poking around along with his five oldest sons, an explosion rocks the stands and nearly kills him. Sabotage, of course; but was the culprit habitual animal- rights picketer Harold Quest, or one of the Stratton heirs—Keith himself, his despised twin Conrad (the new head of the family), their ineffectual brother Ivan—or one of their children—spiteful unwed mother Hannah, sullen jockey Rebecca, insouciant Dart, or troublemaking Forsyth? Francis's biggest coup here is his success in delineating shades and varieties of wickedness in the superbly monstrous Strattons. Despite an unconvincing hint of May-Decemberromance for his fatalistic hero, this is the most elaborate and satisfying of his recent books—a winner from the starting gate to the last hurdle. (Book-of-the-Month Dual Selection)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425199381
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/28/2004
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 399,311
  • Product dimensions: 4.28 (w) x 6.83 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Dick Francis

Dick Francis (pictured with his son Felix Francis) was born in South Wales in 1920. He was a young rider of distinction winning awards and trophies at horse shows throughout the United Kingdom. At the outbreak of World War II he joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot, flying fighter and bomber aircraft including the Spitfire and Lancaster.

He became one of the most successful postwar steeplechase jockeys, winning more than 350 races and riding for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. After his retirement from the saddle in 1957, he published an autobiography, The Sport of Queens, before going on to write more than forty acclaimed books, including the New York Times bestsellers Even Money and Silks.

A three-time Edgar Award winner, he also received the prestigious Crime Writers’ Association’s Cartier Diamond Dagger, was named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, and was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2000. He died in February 2010, at age eighty-nine, and remains among the greatest thriller writers of all time.

Biography

Dick Francis was born in Lawrenny, South Wales in 1920. He served in the Royal Air Force for six years during World War II, piloting fighter and bomber aircraft including the Spitfire and Lancaster between 1943 and 1946.

Following the war, Francis, the son of a jockey, became a celebrity in the world of British National Hunt racing. He won more than 350 races, was Champion Jockey in 1953-1954, and was retained as jockey to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother for four seasons, 1953 through 1957. Francis rode eight times in the world famous Grand National Steeplechase, and nearly won in 1956 when his horse, the Queen Mother's Devon Loch, a few strides away from victory with a clear field, suddenly collapsed. This incident, which Francis calls "both the high point and low point of my career as a jockey," was the impetus for him to begin a second career as a writer. Shortly after the incident, a literary agent approached Francis about writing an autobiography.

In 1957, Francis suffered another serious fall and was advised to retire from race riding. He completed his autobiography, The Sport of Queens, which was published later that year, and accepted an invitation to write six features for the London Sunday Express. He stayed on as the newspaper's racing correspondent for 16 years.

Sports writing soon led to fiction writing, which in turn led to a string of bestselling novels. His first, Dead Cert, was published in 1962. His 36th novel, 10 Lb. Penalty, was published in the U. S. by G. P. Putnam's Sons in September 1997. In addition to his novels and autobiography, Francis has also published a biography of Lester Piggott, A Jockey's Life, and eight short stories. He has edited (with John Welcome) four collections of racing stories, and has contributed to anthologies and periodicals.

Francis's books have been bestsellers in a number of countries, and have been translated into more than 30 languages, including all European languages, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, Bantu, and several dialects of Chinese. Each of his novels has also been recorded on audio in both Britain and the United States.

Francis was made an Officer of the most noble Order of the British Empire in 1984, and was awarded the British Crime Writers Association silver dagger in 1965, gold dagger in 1980 and Cartier diamond dagger for his life's work in 1990. The recipient of three Edgar Allen Poe Awards for Best Novel from the Mystery Writers of America, most recently for 1995's Come to Grief, Francis is the only person to have been awarded the prestigious award more than once. The Mystery Writers of America named Francis Grand Master for his life's work in 1996, and he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Tufts University in 1991.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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    1. Also Known As:
      Sir Richard Stanley Francis (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, British West Indies
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 31, 1920
    2. Place of Birth:
      Tenby, Pembrokeshire, southwest Wales
    1. Date of Death:
      February 14, 2010
    2. Place of Death:
      Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, British West Indies

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 16 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2000

    Francis Wins the Race

    Thoroughly entertaining, this novel kept my interest. I couldn't put it down. With life-life characters, Francis has developed an intriguing story of architect Lee Morris and his involvement with Stratton Park relatives. The relationship between Morris and his sons was also captivating. This is the best Dick Francis book I have read, and I think I've read them all!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2013

    Lee Morris is one of my favorite characters and I greatly enjoye

    Lee Morris is one of my favorite characters and I greatly enjoyed descriptions of his renovation work as my husband and I do the same work. Lee's numerous children are well-drawn and individual. The ending always makes me laugh and cry

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2013

    Excellent

    Dick Francis keeps you right on the edge all the way to the finish line.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2011

    Mastering the family feud

    Dick Francis uses his ability to capture the viciousness of a family feud to produce a tense mystery surrounding a family's decision as to whether to sell the horse racing track to developers or to revitalize it, with a hated outsider finding himself at the center of it all.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2008

    No suspense

    I was very disappointed by the slow pace and lack of activity for most of the book. The plot didn't seem very realistic and was hampered by several plot holes. Also, the characters were fairly 'cardboard' in that the hero always did the good and honourable thing no matter what adversity was on him. The only lapses in his upstanding character were so minor as to not be worth mentioning. The villain was pure evil -- I am surprised the author didn't include descriptions of him running over puppies on his way to board meetings. Finally, the characters did not seem to respond realistically to the villain. That is, even though he seemingly never helped anyone but himself and was well known as dishonest, the other characters would believe everything he said without doubt. I think more realistically, they would be a bit more suspicious and check out his claims a little before accepting them.

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