Second Wind

Dick Francis, Author
Dick Francis, Author Putnam $24.95 (293p) ISBN 978-0-399-14562-9
Reviewed on: 10/04/1999
Release date: 10/01/1999
With his 40th novel in as many years, grand master Dick Francis isn't up to his usual high standards, but fans know that even a subpar Francis is in the 95th percentile. Here the typical Francis hero is a young Englishman of a vanishing breed: smart, self-effacing although very good at his job, polite and thoroughly decent. Perry Stuart is a well-known TV weatherman for the BBC who was orphaned as a child and raised by his beloved, now crippled grandmother, who remains tartly sensible (""If you can't fix it, think about something else""). Joining fellow BBC weatherman Kris Ironside on a flying jaunt into the eye of a Caribbean hurricane, Perry survives when the plane crashes and washes up on a tiny, apparently abandoned island where the houses were destroyed by the hurricane. In a hut, he stumbles across a safe containing a mysterious file folder whose contents he cannot decipher. After a crew wearing radiation-protection suits arrive by air to rescue him, Perry's troubles are only beginning, as he slowly becomes aware of a sinister scheme in which well-off people are brokering enriched uranium to foreign nogoodniks. Among the cast are mushroom mogul Robin Darcy and his flashy American wife, two old SIS spooks--think an aging James Bond and a tottery M--and a beautiful nurse who is Perry's circumspect love interest. Perry continues to encounter danger: the sabotage of another plane he's on, threats by a muscle-bound thug in Grand Cayman. Francis's writing is smooth and intelligent, moving the reader right along, but the end of the book is more than a tad far-fetched. Still, ex-RAF pilot and champion steeplechaser Francis knows his stuff--and of course race courses figure in the plot. BOMC main selection; Audio Books main selection; 3-city author tour. (Oct.)
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