Review: Nerve by Dick Francis

Steeplechase is an equestrian sport that takes a very special kind of athlete. Jockeys have to be a little crazy, fearless, and sort of adrenaline junkies to enter into the sport.

Rob Finn has that special combination of crazy and fearless….all he cares about is racing and winning. Literally nothing else matters to him. Finn is working his way up in the steeplechase world and basically has nerves of steel but he is always picked to ride second rate horses.

Then the day comes where he is in the right place at the right time, a fellow jockey takes a spill and Finn is hired to ride in his place. But then Finn too takes a spill, and after that he is always on slow horses so many start to wonder if he has lost his nerve.

Finn starts to wonder if he is the target of a plot to undermine his career. Finn sets out to clear not just his own reputation but the reputation of his fellow jockeys. This book immediately hooks the reader from the first paragraph, where a jockey shoots himself in front of Finn. From that moment on, the race is literally on to find out who is sabotaging Finn’s races and why.

This is the second Dick Francis book that I’ve read and I really enjoy them. They aren’t overly complicated mysteries but they are fast paced and something is always happening. Not to mention his books all have something to do with the horse world….mainly the steeplechase world.

With this being Francis’s second book (I am trying to read them in publication order) I can definitely tell his writing has improved but his style remains in tact. Like his first book, his main characters seems to be a little on the gritty side, boarding on full on questionable, but yet the reader continues to form an attachment to them. His characters are always fully developed and they realize their limitations and their strengths which I like. I also like a story where the good guys win and the bad guys get their comeuppances, there is a clear resolution and the story doesn’t feel unfinished.

I also like that Francis always tries to please female readers with a hint of a romance for the main character. I don’t know that it’s entirely necessary to the plot but it is fun to have a little love interest to break up the horse world and mystery parts as well as show a different side of the main character to the reader.

The dialogue and plot are tight which keeps the plot on track and moving along quickly. Everything has a purpose and advances the ‘mystery’. What I think I enjoyed a lot about this book was that it wasn’t a ‘murder’ mystery but yet it unfolded like it was a murder mystery if that makes sense.

I also really enjoy Francis’s descriptions of the horse racing world. Not just the race courses and the sport itself but the horses themselves. He does an excellent job at making the reader truly feel the power of the horse and the thrill of racing. As a fellow horse person myself, I find it hard to describe what it is about horses that are so thrilling to non horse people……how does one describe the power and elation at clearing a fence on a horse with a mind of its own? It’s extremely difficult for non horse people to understand and even harder to explain…..but Francis is able to articulate that feeling for non horse people so well, his readers can scarcely deny his knowledge and descriptions of the race world and the love that comes with being around horses.

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: Nerve by Dick Francis 

  • Paperback, 320 pages
    Published September 1st 1998 by Jove (first published 1964)
    ISBN 0515123463 (ISBN13: 9780515123463)
  • Review copy provided by: Personal collection

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 4 out of 5

Genre: mystery, detective novel, suspense, thriller

Memorable lines/quotes:

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