cover image INSIDE TRACK


John Francome, . . St. Martin's Minotaur, $24.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-312-32979-2

British author Francome, a former champion jockey, makes his U.S. debut with this intricately plotted mystery thriller. In the brutal prologue, thug Malcolm Priest murders a drug dealer who's crossed him and the drug dealer's girlfriend who has the misfortune to be on the scene. Meanwhile, Malcolm's brother-in-law, Jamie Hutchinson, is released from prison after serving time for killing 15-year-old Alan Kirkstall while driving drunk. Despite his guilty plea, Jamie has little recollection of the fatal night—which proves an obstacle to his getting past the incident and reclaiming something of his former life. When Clem Kirkstall, Alan's traumatized father, learns of Jamie's freedom, Clem vows revenge. Jamie's tentative steps toward returning to the saddle as a steeplechase jockey bring him into contact with the dead boy's sister; the surprising mutual attraction that develops is but one of a number of romantic subplots, one involving the female inspector assigned to oversee the drug-murder inquiry. The resolution may strike some readers as a little pat, especially given the gritty realism of the rest of the book, but Dick Francis fans should be delighted with the authentic picture of the horse-racing world. Agent, Melanie Jackson. (Oct. 29)

FYI: A popular racing commentator on Britain's Channel 4, Francome has been a bestseller in the U.K.