You have to have read a couple of Dick Francis' novels before you understand the author. In a way he stands alone, for as far as I can tell he has not overtly used other writers styles and no contemporary writer has used Francis as a primary influence. All of Francis' books follow a similar arc, from one to the next, you know exactly what you will get. But in a strange way, this is not bothersome, instead it is like revisiting an old familiar and comfortable place.
Francis' books are not in a series format. He only uses the same character for a second time once. In his first ten or so books, he uses a particular jockey to set his story around. And later he finds people of different professions that have racing interests to center stories around. This book, "For Kicks" is from the transitional phase, the late 60's, early 70's. It tells the story of Daniel Roke, a trainer from Australia who is hired to uncover a doping ring that is not being detected through traditional meathods. Its a pretty simple story, and like all of Francis' work it is refreshingly understated. With James Patterson and Patricia Cornwells mamoth body counts and terrorising serial killers, or end of the world scenarios ala Tom Clancy and too many others influencing todays reading lists, its amazing to see how much quiet tension builds up in Francis' stories.
I would highly recommend Francis to anyone. Its a fun world to live in for a while, where all of England revolves around the racing world... every other profesion comes second. I remember how much I loathed the idea of Francis before I first read him and I laugh now at my perception of what his books would be about. I mean, how can one author base a huge series of mysteries on racing horses? Dick Francis does so quite well.