To the Hilt

( 26 )

Overview

From the acclaimed master of mystery and suspense comes the story of a self-imposed outcast who must refresh his detection skills in order to save himself and his family.

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To the Hilt

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Overview

From the acclaimed master of mystery and suspense comes the story of a self-imposed outcast who must refresh his detection skills in order to save himself and his family.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The "hilt" of Francis's delightful 35th thriller refers to the jewel-encrusted, solid gold handle of the ceremonial sword of Scotland's would-be king, Bonnie Prince Charlie. A descendant of the Scottish earl to whom the prince gave the hilt, narrator Alexander Kinloch lives in an unelectrified bothy in the Scottish mountains, supporting himself through his paintings. Al's keen visual sense allows him to draw the faces of the four thugs who beat him and tear apart his home in the opening chapter. "Where is it?" they demand, establishing the leitmotif of concealed objects that Francis weaves through the plot. Hard on the beating, Al must rush to London to comfort his mother in the aftermath of her husband's heart attack. Al learns that his stepfather's brewery is about to collapse because the finance director has absconded with millions of pounds. In desperation, the business affairs of the brewery are turned over to Al, though he pines for solitude, his easel and the mountains. A Francis novel wouldn't be complete without thoroughbred racing; in fact, Al's estranged wife is a race trainer, and one of the many things Al has to hide is Golden Malt, his stepfather's steeplechaser, slated to run in the King Alfred Gold Cupunless Al's spiteful stepsister can steal the horse first. The diverse plot threads tie up neatly, but not before Al achieves an understated emotional breakthrough with his wife and with his undemonstrative mother, endures gruesome torture with hardly a murmur and wins his stepsister's trust. Likable characters abound: a PI who's a master of disguise; the earl, "Himself," who trusts Al to hide the ancestral hilt; a solvency practioner whose flowered dresses and soft hair help persuade bankers to give the brewery a second chance. Earlier this year, the Mystery Writers of America honored Francis as a Grand Master; this novel again shows why. BOMC featured alternate; author tour. (Sept.)
Library Journal
As the self-proclaimed black sheep of his family, Alexander Kinloch prefers a solitary life of painting on a mountainside to working at his stepfather's renowned brewery. Nonetheless, he finds himself chosen to salvage the brewery from bankruptcy and untangle a few mysteries along the way. Francis paints a realisitic character in Kinloch, an ordinary man drawn deep into the mysteries surrounding money embezzled from the family business. He gets beat up several times, falls into traps, and admits that he knows nothing about running a business. Despite a long-standing feud, Alexander must confront his step-sister. Although the plot occasionally slows, the characters, including a private investigator with a flair for theatrics, make for interesting reading. Another winner from the hugely popular jockey-turned-author. Recommended.Erin Cassin, "Library Journal"
School Library Journal
YA-Alexander, a reclusive young painter living in the Scottish Highlands, returns to London to oversee his stepfather's business when the older man has a heart attack. Both the chief financial officer and the firm's money have disappeared. Many twists occur before the conclusion of the story. Many teens will identify with Al as he doesn't quite fit in with the rest of his elite family. They will laugh at his assistant, a delightful private eye whose personality and unique methods of operation are efficient and entertaining. The plot moves quickly and there is abundant white space per page. Explanations of Scottish history are provided within the narrative. Although horses and a race are involved, their role is not as important as in other novels by this author.-Claudia Moore, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Horses finish well back in the field in Francis's dependable 36th thriller.

Like the heroes of the first 35, Alexander Kinloch is a loner—a painter who lives without mod. cons. in the Scottish Highlands—pulled reluctantly into action by a summons from one of the few people who knows he's alive. His unemotional mother cables him to let him know that his stepfather, Sir Ivan Westering, has been stricken by a heart attack. Even before he can pack for London, Al is attacked by four thugs who demand to know where it is (they don't say what it is, and Al doesn't ask), leave him barely alive when he won't talk, and make him much more interested in Ivan's messy affairs. An embezzling finance director has toppled Ivan's brewery into bankruptcy, and Ivan's rapacious daughter Patsy Benchmark is hot to seize his assets, including Golden Malt, a steeplechase hopeful for the brewery's King Alfred Gold Cup, and an actual gold cup linked to Alfred the Great, and only Al, who knows precious little about either horses or antiquities, can help. There'll be insolvency consultants to meet, creditors to persuade, an elderly nationalistic evaluator to outwit (she wants not the gold cup but the 1740 hilt from Prince Charles's ceremonial sword, a gift from Charles to Al's family, returned by his titled uncle to Scotland), Patsy and her unsavory husband to foil, Al's long-estranged wife to come to terms with, and an unexpected manslaughter to solve. Al pulls off these commissions with panache, and with the help of an uncommonly versatile private eye.

Far from Francis's best work (Come to Grief, 1995, etc.), but among his most generously plotted books, by turns unexpectedly humorous and moving in its rooting of stoicism in personal loyalty. It's a fine moral code for a jockey, but Al shows that you don't have to be a jockey to be true to your friends.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425196816
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/1/2004
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 552,369
  • Product dimensions: 4.32 (w) x 6.82 (h) x 1.00 (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 4.5
( 26 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 22, 2012

    A Must Read! One of Dick Francis's best.

    I have read it before in hardback and when I got my Nook; I just had to get it again to reread again and again. I don't know how he can combine a painter who plays golf, a horse trainer, a brewery owner, a castle living uncle, missing millions, thugs, and so many other things and still come out with an exciting, thrilling, wonderful novel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2013

    Alex is one of Francis' most likeable characters and as always w

    Alex is one of Francis' most likeable characters and as always with his books, l learned something new

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2012

    Recommended

    One of my favorite books and favorite author. Easy reads, good stories. Very enjoyable.

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  • Posted December 2, 2011

    One of my Favorite Dick Francis books!

    I have read "To the Hilt" several times and enjoy it just as much as the first time I read it years ago.

    I would recommend any of his books to anyone who likes well-written thrillers.

    Dick Frances' Gamble by Felix Frances is also a great read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2011

    Always a good read

    Dick Francis is my go to author when I need a good read with a clever twist.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2003

    Best three writers...

    Someone once asked me to name the three best writers ...My answer: Dick Francis, Dick Francis & Dick Francis...I do read others, but can't think of any of their names..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2002

    Fun Reading

    Dick Francis is one of the masters of the modern mystery novel. His characters are individuals, his settings varied, his plots suspenseful. In this effort, he gives us Scottish artifacts, a bag-piping painter, and enough evil-doers to give the good guys a run for their money. And yes, there will be horses.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2002

    One of the author's best

    Francis writes to a formula, sure, but when he's on the top of his game, it's a terrific formula. "Break In" and "To The Hilt" are the two books I would hand to a non-Francis fan if I wanted them to understand this author's appeal. Tightly crafted thrillers, fast pacing, likeable characters, a smattering of horse-racing dirt, and a plot which is exciting but doesn't fall into TSTL territory. TSTL is shorthand for Too Stupid To Live, a common affliction among thriller heroes and heroines who would rather walk blindly into a trap than do what any normal person would do and call the cops. In his weaker books, Francis builds his big action climaxes around just such stupid actions. In his better books, the plot doesn't need such contrivances, and "To The Hilt" is one of his best.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2000

    Not All Aristocrats Are Snobs.

    Alexander Kinloch is the twenty-nine-year old son of the deceased fourth son of an earl. He lives alone in a hut on a windy mountainside in Scotland spending his time painting and playing the bagpipes. Francis has created another likeable protagonist in Alexander and a memorable supporting cast of helpers and villains. Horses are only a peripheral issue in this book which is the author's thirty-fifth novel. Some interesting touches of medieval history add spice to a fast-paced story.

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