Fiction: “The Danger” by Dick Francis

So I picked this up almost directly after my In Memoriam post. When I said I’d read this later in 2010, I didn’t think I would actually mean two weeks later.

The narrator here is Andrew Douglas. He works for Liberty Market, which initially sounds like a financial company along the lines of Liberty Mutual. Its somewhat covert name actually does itself some good, as Liberty Market is a company that assists families in retreiving kidnapped victims. (Liberty, freedom – do you know how long it took me to realize the significance of the name?) The book opens with Andrew on location in Italy, working with the Italian police force at a ransom drop. The victim is star female jockey Alessia Cenci.

The novel is divided into three parts: Italy, England, and Washington, D.C. The Italy section ends when Alessia is returned to her family. After a week or so being back among the living following a six-week-long stint as kidnapping victim, she decides to return to England to stay with a friend who trains horses. It’s also conveniently close to Andrew.

Andrew helps her come out of her shell and overcome the Stockholm Syndrome and other residual emotional effects related to her kidnapping. As she’s making progress, a young boy is kidnapped. A young boy whose father owns a horse.

Andrew begins to see the similarities among the kidnapped victims – one a jockey, one a horse owner, a third we didn’t see that was a racecourse owner – and preemptively warns the Jockey Club. Too late, a third/fourth victim gets snatched at an international racing event in Washington.

The pace is languid at times – not slow, because important things are happening to Alessia – with the occasional look at the Liberty Market world. As I’ve said with Dick Francis’s works before, don’t read this before you go to bed. You’ll be getting sleepy, and you’ll say to yourself, “Just one more chapter, and then I’ll turn out the light.” The end of the chapter? Something exciting will happen. A car explodes, the narrator gets a bump on the head, dead horse, whatever. You’ll be up longer than you’d anticipated.

Grade for The Danger: 3 stars.

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