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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
A lot of writers these days get compared to other writers. How many blurbs have you read comparing the author to Raymond Chandler, Carl Hiaasen, or Mary Higgins Clark?
I've never seen Dick Francis compared to anyone. The reason is simple. He is unto himself in style and plotting alike. If he resembles anybody, it is John Buchan, one of Alfred Hitchcock's favorite thriller writers, or Robert Louis Stevenson.
Take Second Wind, Francis's new novel. One cannot possibly read the first sentence without reading on: "Delirium brings comfort to the dying." Nor can one read the first chapter without being caught up in the sweep of the story. Except for sagas, many — if not most — contemporary novels are set in relatively short spans of time. Ross MacDonald even suggested that the scope of the modern mystery not exceed 24 hours.
But, like Stevenson's, most of Francis's books have a sweep that gives one a great sense of adventure. In Second Wind, for instance, our hero, Perry Stuart, is a much-respected TV meteorologist in jolly old England. But then another meteorologist offers him the opportunity to witness the power and majesty — and terror — of weather in its rawest state. He offers to take our man along chasing hurricanes in the Caribbean. Some of the best writing Francis has ever done is in the hurricane chapters. He's always been precise. Rarely an excess word. Here there are moments that are almost Hemingway-esque — so spare yet so powerful in their descriptive powers that I went back and read them again afterfinishingthe book.
Francis, being the master plotter, uses the hurricane section of the book to accomplish two things. He wants to treat his readers to a true adventure — and he wants to set in motion one of his subtlest plots. Because when Perry Stuart gets back to England he learns — as most of John Buchan's heroes always learned — that he has somehow gotten himself in trouble with some ruthless and brutal people.
This is one of Francis's best novels in some time. The characters — especially the grandmother to whom Stuart frequently refers — stay with you long after you finish the book, and the flying sequences are flat-out brilliant. By God, Dick Francis is better than ever!