Fiction: “Nerve” by Dick Francis

NerveNote from the Future
I started writing this entry on Sunday, April 14. Being a Mainer, I have incredibly close ties with the wonderful city of Boston. I have family and friends who live in that city, and the idea of taking something as pure and fun as the Boston Marathon and turning it into a scene of terror and heartache is unconscionable. So, please just note that this entry may sound disjointed after about halfway through, and also note that Boston is like, the second-worst city to mess with (New York obviously being the first). We will find who did this and there will be no mercy, count on that.

Okay. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

I’m currently experiencing a tinge of Book ADD. I was (and actually, still am) in the middle of reading two romance novels that weren’t truly holding their interest when I finished reading Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and I quickly needed to find something else that would work as a Lunch Break Book. My morning pretty much went like this:

SHIT I need something to read! But none of my books are interesting me! What can — no Grisham — I — OH LET ME JUST GRAB THIS *yoink*

As I (think I’ve) said before, I have read all of Dick Francis’s mystery novels over the course of my life. Now I’m just re-reading them. Nerve was … my second? Third? I know I read Banker first, and Twice Shy was another early read … I know Nerve was high on that list, because I think it may be one of the first novels of his ever published? *scampers off to Wikipedia* Wow. According to that bastion of knowledge, Nerve was the second novel published. Yay for being right!

Nerve‘s jockey is Rob Finn. Finn’s new to the jockeying world, relatively, and pretty much makes his living riding horses that ‘real’ jockeys wouldn’t take. Now, I could digress into a whole conversation about ‘amateur jockeys’ versus ‘professional jockeys,’ but I’m not going to. Suffice to say that Finn is a professional jockey, as he gets paid for riding the horses, but he’s the low jockey on the winner’s pole. So instead of saying ‘real’ jockeys up there, maybe I should have said ‘better’ jockeys.

Anyway. Nerve begins when one of Finn’s jockey friends kills himself after a race. At the racetrack. In front of everyone. Yeah, it’s weird.

And then more friends get hit with bad luck: one guy loses his job because, honest to god, cars keep blocking the road he lives on with no way to get around them. (Oh, PS – this book was written in the early ’60s, before cell phones and actual roads in Britain. SORRY BRITS but you know it’s most likely true?) Another jockey gets super pissed and starts losing races.

As for Finn, he ends up picking up some races when another friend breaks his leg, and now Finn is a winner. Like, he’s got a hot streak going. Which only causes more anger coming from Angry!Jockey.

Until one day, Finn’s horse takes a fall and Finn becomes slightly concussed. Once he gets back on the literal horse, however, the horses don’t run as fast. They don’t respond to his prods or his kicks, and all of a sudden, Golden Boy Finn is now constantly coming in last.

I’m not going to give the mystery away, other than telling you that the losing of Finn’s nerve (Significance of Title, BOOM) is not a result of his concussion and something much more sinister. The book’s a good read, and it has clearly been a while since I read it, because I did not remember any of the plot.

Speaking of plots and things I didn’t remember, I should mention that there should be a trigger warning on this book, though (luckily) not for violence: Finn is in love with Joanna. Joanna is his first cousin – their fathers are brothers. I … I am not sure how that makes it less icky, but apparently (back in the sixties) it wasn’t considered incest, and it probably isn’t according to the definition of the word, but I don’t know if I moved my dictionary last year and I don’t want that search to be stored in my browser history. While the entire relationship throughout the book is platonic, it is an emotion that Finn (and Joanna) struggle with, so if that stuff weirds you out, I thought you should know. Because I care.

SPEAKING OF CARING. Now that I’ve sort of got your attention. In addition to That’s What She Read, I also run another blog, Movies Alaina’s Never Seen. And I’ve started thinking about ways to either make the blogs better, or to do different things with them… either way, I’m seeking feedback and I’d love as many people to participate as possible. So far I have two responses, and one of them is my sister. While her point is absolutely valid, one cannot analyze data and make cohesive decisions with only two points of data.

If you have a few seconds, please take my feedback survey. It’s only ten questions, and even if you don’t read either of these blogs routinely (or at all — maybe you found me doing a Google Image search or something), I’d greatly appreciate any and all possible feedback. Thanks so much!

Grade for Nerve: 3.5 stars

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