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Odds Against by Dick Francis
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Odds Against (1965)

by Dick Francis

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Not as formulaic as many of Francis' subsequent efforts. Written in the '60s; the office boy's carefully coiffed and rather long hair is a prominent topic, Sid's father-in-law was in WWII, and ex-officers of one sort or another abound.

Sid is the archetype of Francis's quiet, effective, socially observant, and stoic heroes. They are very good at seeing the flaws in others, summing them up, and coping without judging too cruelly. But we know they are superior to everybody else.

One person is blackmailed into suicide because he is gay. Dick Francis comes across as pretty socially permissive in most of his books, he seems to be genuinely more interested in actual character than in labels.

The part about the damaged hand is actually rather good technically, but the whacky sadists are a bit over the top.

Telephones were quite primitive in those days. There's a girl who works the office switchboard. ( )
  themulhern | Jan 2, 2014 |
A great portrayal of what courage is (plus the reference to Flanders & Swann always makes me happy). A gripping story even when rereading it. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 26, 2013 |
I'm so glad I saw the movie of this book first. It was part of a four-episode series on British television called The Racing Game. The first episode was an adaptation of this book; the remainder were based on the characters and written by screenwriters in consultation with Mr. Francis. I enjoyed them, especially the first, and liked the casting, so I felt I'd like to read the book to see how it differed (having already read the second in the series, Edgar-winner [book:Whip Hand].

Had I read the book first, I would have been disappointed in the film, because the book is much better. In it, Sid Halley has been "working" in a large detective agency for two years, ever since his hand was smashed in a steeplechase accident, ending his career as a jockey. He is seldom given any assignments and assumes that the job is a bit of charity -- not because he needs the money but just to give him a place to go each day. Then, his soon-to-be-ex-father-in-law inveigles him into helping foil an extremely hostile takeover of a small racecourse, and in the process, Sid discovers that he really does want to be a detective and is good at it. All this character growth is brought out much more fully in the book than in the film. Also, some minor plot changes in the film, while perhaps cinematically apt, seemed somewhat unrealistic to me, and the original incidents in the book are both more believable and just as suspenseful. If you like to see filmed mysteries, do watch the videos first and then read the book. But do read the book by all means.
( )
  auntieknickers | Apr 3, 2013 |
I quite enjoyed Odds Against, and found it to be an intriguing and exciting novel. Sid Halley is an unusual protagonist -- an ex-jockey who had been forced to give up his career through a fall from his horse that crippled his hand. Divorced and spiritless, he has been working for his former father-in-law's firm as a private investigator, but doing little for his paycheck.

When a group of ruthless individuals seek to sabotage a local racetrack, Sid takes on the case, and while nearly losing his life, he regains a reason for living. During the extended climax, he races against time to figure out how the racetrack has been sabotaged, being chased all the while by the killers. Oddly, the reader is not drawn into the feelings of the protagonist (despite the first- person narrative, its affect is a bit flat, compared to the pain and terror he must have felt). In addition, while Sid solves the case, the cruelty of the perpetrators is not compensated by a cathartic denouement. Both of these features may reflect the author's goal of writing in the "hard boiled" genre. In any case, as entertainment, this work more than satisfies. I am eager to read other contributions in the Sid Halley series. ( )
4 vote danielx | Jun 30, 2012 |
I like the way Sid is surprised that others think him brave. I think most heroes are that way just doing what they have to as best they can. ( )
  LA12Hernandez | Jan 22, 2009 |
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I was never particularly keen on my job before the day I got shot and nearly lost it, along with my life.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0330105973, Paperback)

Sid Halley, champion jockey, had to give up racing when his hand was smashed. But his next job brings him a bullet - right in the middle of his chest. As he would soon discover, life as a private eye could get a lot worse, especially when a ruthless property dealer has plans for Seabury racetrack. Plans that have nothing to do with racing and everything to do with conspiracy and violence. The kind of plans that set high odds against a novice detective staying alive...'A plot that goes with the pace of a champion hurdler' - "Evening Standard".

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:01 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

A hard fall took hotshot jockey Sid Halley out of the horse racing game, leaving him with a crippled hand, a broken heart, and the desperate need for a new job. Now he's landed a position with a detective agency, only to catch a bullet from some penny-ante thug. And things are about to get even more hectic--the agency is giving him a case to handle on his own. The case brings him to the door of Zanna Martin, a woman who might be just what Sid needs to get him back up and running. But he's up against a field of thoroughbred criminals, and the odds against him are making it a long shot that he'll even survive...… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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