For millionaire jockey Alan York, winning is a bonus. For Joe Nantwich, victory means no cushy backhanders; and for Bill Davidson, front running on strongly fancied Admiral, triumph means murder. His own.
©1962 Dick Francis; (P)1989 Chivers Audio Books
This reading of Dead Cert is a pleasure. The narrator, Tony Britton, is superb. The individual characters are distinct, and Britton reads with panache.
Dear Mr. Narrator,
The story was good until I couldn't handle the narration anymore. Most of your reading was excellent. Unfortunately... well... please, never again use the "crying drunken man" voice. I couldn't handle it. Oh how I tried... on sunny days, chilly evenings, relaxing afternoons... but no time is a good time to listen to that voice. I was disappointed. I don't blame you... somebody should have told you. But I cannot finish this book. Please re-record and send me the replacement.
Well performed! (I agree that the drunken guy was quite dramatic, but probably realistic...anyhow it is just a short bit). Still, I could listen to Tony Britton all day. He really brings life to these novels.
Fabulous story. If you like Dick Francis' style, you'll enjoy this one about steeplechasing.
After the book hits the climax, it continues for a while to resolve another plot point. Nice because I wanted more. Kind of like one of those classical symphonies that sounds like it is ending, but then goes on to entertain for a while longer.
I find all the Dick Francis novels wonderful to listen to while in my car. Although I've read them all, some twice, Tony Britton's narration improves on the books -- the various accents he manages are a revelation (we don't read in accents, actually). I sympathize with the listener who didn't enjoy hearing Britton cover Joe's drunken whining, but it was as grating as the character was intended to be. The single great flaw is in the recording quality. It is remarkably uneven, both in volume and tone, such that different takes or sessions become extremely obvious. If this were a film, we'd be looking for the continuity director. In this case the engineer should be taken out and hung.
The cover of the book says “Dick Francis The Grand Master of Crime Fiction.” Sorry, but I disagree. Too much illogic and stupidity. Alan’s father tells others “Alan has a Sherlock-Holmes-type nature. He is good at sniffing out trouble and bad guys.” Well, I don’t recall Sherlock Holmes doing stupid things. Sure Alan figures out who the bad guys are and causes them to get caught, but he does stupid things along the way.
1. During a race, a bad guy strings wire over a jumping fence that kills Bill. Alan sees the wire but he’s not sure what it is. Does he immediately go to the authorities to investigate? No. He spends hours at the hospital with Bill’s wife, and then later goes to the race course to investigate. He sees the wire. Does he take a picture of it or take someone with him as a witness? No. He goes away and brings someone back later, and by that time it’s gone. The local policeman questions a few race course employees, but he doesn’t do any more investigating. The reason is there is no second witness to the wire. Also, why did the bad guy wait hours before removing the wire? Not logical.
2. Thugs attack Alan telling him to stop investigating. He receives more threats. He is about to run another race, and he expects the bad guys will put up a wire to take him down. His thinking is “I don’t want the other jockeys to get hurt, so I’ll stay in front and take the wire.” STUPID!!!! He is wealthy. He could easily hire some private investigator or body guard types to hide near the various jumping fences with cameras. They could take pictures of bad things happening and probably prevent it. Did he do anything like that? No. Instead, his horse hit the wire, he fell on the ground, got tromped by other horses, and then a bad guy walks up and kicks him in the head and ribs, giving him amnesia, a concussion, and broken ribs on top of the other injuries. Would Sherlock Holmes do that? No.
3. Alan knows a bad guy is sitting in his office, has a gun, and wants Alan dead. Alan’s weapon is a roll of coins in a bag. Alan goes to the bad guy, plans to sneak up on him and hit him before he can be shot. Why doesn’t Alan take a better weapon or someone with him?
Alan has a scuffle with a bad guy. The bad guy gets injured, but the book ends without saying what the injury is. Is the guy dead or alive? Will there be evidence to put him away? We don’t know. The happy ending is “Alan didn’t get injured in that scuffle.”
Unsupported romance thrown in:
This felt like the author threw in a romance without paying attention. It wasn’t realistic. Alan meets Kate. He thinks she is beautiful. They have two dates: one out to dinner and one at her home. He kisses her once. She kisses like a sister. He looks forward to awakening her passionate nature later. He tells her he loves her and wants to marry her. He proposes more than once. There was no character development about her. Does she have anything upstairs? She never said anything of interest. I don’t know what they talked about. What made him love her? This needed some dialogue.
No cell phones:
This was published in 1962, before cell phones. Frequently I thought how different this story would be if Alan had a cell phone. I suppose it is interesting to be reminded of what life was like without them.
My favorite part:
I really liked the story about Tompkins who owned a local bar. Thugs beat him up and destroyed his property. They wanted weekly extortion money. I liked what he did to protect himself and what he did with other local shop owners. He did smart things that worked. He was my hero. But his story wasn’t big enough. It was a minor side story.
I will probably avoid the narrator Tony Britton if I can. I think he would be ok for British people, but his British accent was hard for me to understand. I had to concentrate and pay careful attention. It took energy. Hearing American speak is easier and more enjoyable for me. Some reviewers complained about his voice for the drunk character Joe. I didn’t like it either, but it was only a few scenes. My problem was his narration of the whole book. Don’t get me wrong. I love to hear people speak with a British accent in conversation. I just don’t want an entire book of it.
ENDING: happy although incomplete.
GENRE: mystery suspense.
I've read all of Dick Francis' many novels several times. I just love them. It does me good to identify with his durable, independent protagonist, and I love the world of horses.
This is a well-written mystery, and I will likely try the next book by this author.
Unlike the previous reviewer, I thought Tony Britton reads rather well. The "crying, drunken man" character is perhaps excessive, but it is a tiny fraction of the total narration.
"Dead cert to read"
I like this book very much as the story moves along all the time and does not drag leaving you to wait and wait for the story to continue
"Stone Cold Classic"
The first Dick Francis and one of his best. Manages to combine an excellent plot with credible characters whilst at the same time immersing one into the world of horse racing. This may have been written in the '60s, but isn't at all dated. Tony Britten is a superb reader and perfect for Francis, although the sound quality is not particularly good.
I have had the good fortune to have read every book Dick Francis wrote, and I can say that I have never been disappointed. So much so that over the years I have re read many of them. Dead Cert is brilliant, drawing the reader into the world of intrigue and horses, you can practically smell the blood, sweat and tears within the pages.
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