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The Finalists by Russell Braddon

The Finalists (1977)

by Russell Braddon

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192537,190 (3.71)1
adventure (2) Australian (1) crime (1) DBE (1) fiction (4) H3-7 (1) novel (1) RHS 3rd shelf (1) Roman (1) SO (1) sport (1) suspense (1) tennis (3) thriller (2) z1j4 (1)



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It’s the 1970s and Gary King, ranked number two in the world twenty is three years old; Vissarion Tsarapkin, upcoming Russian protégée is just seventeen years old. The two meet for the first time in the New South Wales Lawn Tennis Championship – a meeting that will change everything.

Immediately following their encounter in the second round of the Championship the two become friends, a friendship unhindered by Vissarion’s inability to speak English. The latter’s fraternisation with a capitalist leads to ructions in the Soviet camp and to Vissation’s defection. Welcomed into the King’s family home Gary and Vissarion become staunch friends as well as doubles partners; with Gary taken on an almost paternal caring role of his young Russian charge. Their endearing qualities soon make them universal favourites.

All goes well until the two boys find themselves facing one another in the Wimbledon finals; destined to produce the longest, most stunning five sets in history; and one attended by the Queen. However the 16,000 spectators are unaware that while the good natured battle is being fought out on court a tense and deadly drama is unfolding behind the scenes as a mysterious caller threatens that unless the Queen’s priceless Koh-i-Noor diamond is delivered up both the Queen and the winner of the tournament will be shot. The drama of the game is not surprisingly heightened as the two finalists discover that whoever wins the cup will also lose his life!

An ingenious and thrilling story as the drama both on court and between the police and the mystery caller builds towards its potentially fatal climax. The characters are well drawn and two boys are thoroughly likeable both on and off court. As much of the action takes place on the tennis court there is plenty of authentic ball by ball commentary. Interspersed with the drama there are touches of comedy; one of the funniest scenes being the Russian’s inept attempt to reclaim Vissarion from the King’s family home following his defection. ~ A highly entertaining and absorbing novel. ( )
  presto | Apr 24, 2012 |
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