I haven’t bought any new Dick Francis books for years. Dead Heat was lent to me by my kind mother, who also happens to like Dick Francis.

I don’t know if it is the co-authorship with Felix, or just running out of energy, but Dead Heat was nowhere near Francis’ best works. The plot follows his usual pattern: nice guy finds himself in mysterious danger or trouble, investigates, investigates some more, gets dangerously close to the bad guys, gets hurt a bit, investigates some more, and then finally finds himself in a real pickle (his life threatened by the boss of the bad guys). He somehow extricates himself, and the bad guy gets what he deserves.

I don’t mind a familiar plot. But I do mind lazy execution. The good guy (a chef named Max) bases his investigations not on clues but on hunches. “For some reason I felt that x was the clue to everything”, even though there is no obvious reason to think so. And the book is full of clichéd rhetorical questions by Max.

I was assured that others would be waiting at the bottom [of the stairs] to help me. But can they erase the memory? Can they give me back my innocence? Can they prevent the nightmares?

Perhaps it was all a dream. But I knew it wasn’t.

There is also a romantic angle to the plot, again very weakly executed. Max meets a girl and, within hours, decides that she is his soul mate. She seems to think the same. And yet we never get to hear what exactly they have in common, or what makes them think the other person is so great. This, and many other parts of the book, totally fail the “show, don’t tell” admonition. All in all, the writing was so dull and uninspiring that I skimmed the book rather than reading it. Disappointing.

Adlibris, Amazon US, Amazon UK.