Philip Nore's profession is that of a jockey; his hobby is photography. So he turns out to be the only one who can tie together all the loose ends that arise after the death of a racetrack photographer. Seems that the departed had a penchant for blackmail and Philip soon discovers secrets that perhaps should be left hidden.
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September 27, 2003
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Excerpt from Reflex by Dick Francis
Winded and coughing, I lay on one elbow and spat out a mouthful of grass and mud. The horse I'd been riding raised its weight off my ankle, scrambled untidily to its feet and departed at an unfeeling gallop. I waited for things to settle: chest heaving, bones still rattling from the bang, sense of balance recovering from a thirty-mile-an-hour somersault and a few tumbling rolls. No harm done. Nothing broken. Just another fall.
Time and place: sixteenth fence, three-mile steeplechase, Sandown Park racecourse, Friday, November, in thin, cold, persistent rain. At the return of breath and energy I stood wearily up and thought with intensity that this was a damn silly way for a grown man to be spending his life.
The thought itself was a jolt. Not one I'd ever thought before. Riding horses at high speed over various jumps was the only way I knew of making a living, and it was a job one couldn't do if one's heart wasn't in it. The chilling flicker of disillusion nudged like the first twinge of toothache, unexpected, unwelcome, an uneasy hint of possible trouble.
I repressed it without much alarm. Reassured myself that I loved the life, of course I did, the way I always had. Believed quite easily that nothing was wrong except the weather, the fall, the lost race . . . minor, everyday stuff, business as usual.
Squelching uphill to the stands in paper-thin racing boots unsuitable for hiking I thought only and firmly about the horse I'd started out on, sorting out what I might and might not say to its trainer. Discarded "How do you expect it to jump if you don't school it properly " in favor of "The experience will do him good." Thought better of "useless, panicky, hard-mouthed, underfed dog," and decided on "might try him in blinkers." The trainer, anyway, would blame me for the fall and tell the owner I'd misjudged the pace. He was that sort of trainer. Every crash was a pilot error.
I thanked heaven in a mild way that I didn't ride often for that stable, and had been engaged on that day only because Steve Millace, its usual jockey, had gone to his father's funeral. Spare rides, even with disaster staring up from the form books, were not lightly to be turned down. Not if you needed the money, which I did. And not if, like me, you needed your name up on the number boards as often as possible, to show you were useful and wanted and there.