YA-The champion jockey turned detective, Sid Halley, returns in this mystery to find the perpetrator of heinous crimes committed against prize-winning horses that are not insured. The horse community rejects his findings and does everything in its power to stop the investigation. Physical force, slanderous newspaper stories, and bugged phones are some of the tactics used to discredit and demoralize Halley. Fortunately, the nature of the crime is so unnerving that some powerful people enter the scene demanding that he finish his work. Francis has once again created a plausible mystery that can't be solved before finishing the book. The reading is easy and descriptive. The story, set in the present, includes characters and situations that will appeal to teen readers...especially horse lovers. Another Blue Ribbon selection from this notable author.-Linda A. Vretos, West Springfield High School, Springfield, VA
he beloved king of the horse-racing mystery reintroduces ex-jockey-turned-sleuth Sid Halley in a story that is guaranteed to have readers lined up at the circ desk. Smart, tough, cool, and controlled, Halley lost his left hand in an accident years earlier, but that doesn't stop him from investigating equine enigmas. When someone starts mutilating priceless racehorses by hacking off their feet, Halley can't wait to find the bloody bugger who's responsible. Outraged by the senseless attacks, Sid interviews owners, noses after leads, and slogs through muddy pastures looking for clues. He soon concludes, to his horror, that the attacker is one of his oldest pals, friendly rival and fellow ex-jockey Ellis Quint. But when Sid makes his well-founded accusations public, he quickly becomes a pariah, as the racing community refuses to think the worst of the well-respected Quint. Francis' latest is one of his very best, offering a cleverly contrived plot, unforgettable characters, and steadily mounting suspense. But there's more emotional involvement and impact than usual, and the story seems more engaging and real than Francis' typically well structured but formulaic adventures. Halley is solid, engaging, and true blue--a perfect hero for a story that is fast out of the starting gate, smooth in the stretch, and a sure bet for the winner's circle.