on March 29, 2000
Francis offers his usual fare: The same protagonist with a new name; a plot of investigation, discovery, physical pain and mental exercises; a supporting cast of believable characters who act in supportable, self-interested, and logical ways. All of which is not to say anything bad; i love to read Francis, and do so when looking for a vicarious thrill and a light read. The protagonist in this one is Edward "Link" Lincoln, an action picture actor ~ the sort who might star in movies made of Francis' books ~ who goes to South Africa for a little off-set investigation. At least, he thinks that's why he's gone there; he's actually gone to be killed. In a post-Apartheid world the picture of South Africa is rather sweet; i would guess Francis had some coöperation from the government in return for his portrayal of the country.
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on February 16, 2004
Smokescreen is one of those Dick Francis mysteries that take the reader to a country other than England. In this case, two countries, Spain and South Africa, are the sites of the action. The protagonist, Edward Lincoln, is an actor, in his thirties, and when the story opens, he's starring in a movie being made in Spain: Man in a Car. Talk about foreshadowing. But like most of Francis' heroes, "Linc" has lots of experience with horses. As a young man, he worked in a stable; in his early movie career he was a stuntman, specializing in horses.
Given his early experience, it is only natural that a good friend should ask Linc to go to South Africa and find out why her stable of horses is doing so badly in their races after promising beginnings. His friend, it turns out, is dying. The horses are to go to her nephew in her will. And she doesn't want to leave him the horses if they aren't any good.
Shortly after his arrival in Johannesburg, Linc is nearly injured in an accident. If it weren't for the fact that a female TV reporter was seriously injured, he could believe that the publicist for the movie distributor had staged it. The next accident proves that there's no joking around.
Francis' prose is always clean and direct. His characters are straight forward and believable. In the abridged edition, however, much is lost of the nuances of story that are always so enjoyable. If you like Francis, read or listen to the full version. It will be worth the extra time.