Thank you to Hayley Cox from Midas pr for my spot on this blog tour.
Miles Pussett is a former steeplechase Jockey. Now he gets his adrenaline rush from riding down the Cresta Run, a three-quarter-mile Swiss ice chute, head first, reaching speeds of up to eighty miles per hour. Finding himself in St Moria during the same weekend as White Turf, when high-class horse racing takes place on the frozen lake, he gets talked into helping out with the horses. It is against his better judgement. Seven years before, Miles left horse racing behind and swore he would never return. When he discovers something suspicious is going on in the races, something that may have a profound impact on his future life, Miles begins a search for answers. But someone is adamant to stop him – and they’ll go to any lengths to do it…
Having read the previous novel Guilty not Guilty by Felix Francis I was excited to get the opportunity to read this one. This seemed completely different from the last book. The pace was a little slower, and I didn’t feel there was the element of suspense that I felt in the previous book. However, some of the topics dealt with within the story were quite dealt with well.
Miles Pussett is the son of champion jockey Jim Pussett, so he has big shoes to fill. Sadly Jim had died in a car accident one night on his way back home with Miles in the car. Miles was only a teenager at the time, his dream was to become a jockey just like his dad. But his mum didn’t want that for him, she hadn’t been able to watch his Jim race, so the last thing she wanted was for Miles to go down that same route. It wasn’t long after his dads death that they moved to Yorkshire to be closer to her parents, this was the last thing Miles wanted, he would be moving away from the local trainers in Lambourne to the middle of nowhere in Yorkshire. Where his grandparents had a farm.
Miles was determined he was going to be a jockey and did everything he could to do just that. He did point to point races, worked in stables, rode whenever he could, his mum wasn’t happy as he wasn’t doing his schoolwork. He lost his mum who had never really got over losing his dad. Miles had gone to live with his grandparents, as they had been allowed to leave school at fifteen they hadn’t seen the point in forcing Miles to concentrate on his education. Something later in life he realised his mum had been right about. 2 months before his 18th birthday he became a professional Jockey. But would this live up to everything he hoped it would?
After a while of doing some races, and winning some he was approached by Jerry Dickinson, a man he knew from reputation but didn’t know personally. Dickinson wanted him to go and work for him, this was a big opportunity, it could lead him to become a champion like his dad. But it could also lead to a downfall.
The whole story is told through Miles as the narrator, the things he has to deal with at such a young age, decisions he makes as he starts to grow into a young man. Starting out as a young jockey is tough, a competitive world then there is rivalry with some who believe he is only where he is because of who his father was. When his father had died they had been left with no money, Miles worked to get any money together he could to pay for himself to become a jockey.
The story is told in two timelines the now and the past, the now is set in St Moritz. Miles is no longer a jockey, he has been going to Switzerland every year for 7 years to take part in the Cresta run, which entails hurling himself on a toboggan, head first, down a three quarter mile long Swiss ice chute reaching speeds of up to 80 miles an hour. This is where he gets his adrenalin rush. There is no cash prize for the winner. It is purely for the fun and rush. Through the past parts of the story we learn how his career as a jockey came to an end, what happened leading up to it and after.
In the now, Miles, bumps into some people from the horse riding industry, in the seven years since Miles quit horse racing he had never been there during the White Turf weekend. White Turf is a high class racing event which takes place on a frozen lake. Despite everything Miles finds himself roped into helping out his old boss Jerry Dickinson, after his original helper had fallen on the ice and broken his ankle. All he wants Miles to do is give the horses a short run early morning and to saddle up one of the horses whilst Jerry does the other. What could go wrong? But after the race when Miles takes the losing horse back to the stable he becomes suspicious, something doesn’t seem right. Why is the horse carrying extra weight? Miles waits to confront Jerry, but when the horse Jerry was holding comes into the stables alone, Miles goes looking for Jerry and finds him face downon the ice, when he rolls him over he sees Jerry seems to have had a good beating, but refuses to let Miles get the police or and ambulance. In the end he lets Miles take him to the hospital. But who had done this? It’s not long before Miles suspects who it was, especially when he himself gets cornered, but what do they want? Later when Miles is doing a practise ride on the Cresta run someone has put something on the track, at the speed he is going Miles has no chance of stopping and ends up hitting the obstruction at high speed. Was this deliberate? Was it the same people he had seen before? Or is it someone else? Why do they have it in for Miles he has done nothing? Who would want him dead?
What was interesting in the backstory of this is the pressure on jockey’s and their weight. For Miles who was quite tall he was always battling, which meant not eating or drinking before getting weighed, because if he came in pound over he wouldn’t be allowed to race. This became a big pressure which led to some drastic not to mention dangerous extremes to attain right weight whichever horse. This had an impact on not just physical health but also his mental health, he had his first panic attack when driving to a race, on the same part of the road where his dad had died, this was the start of flashbacks, and vivid dreams, then he would drink in order to blot things out, or to help him sleep. The author manages to deal with mental health, PTSD, alcoholism and survivors guilt really well. Some of the grief that Miles had never really dealt with, as it seemed he never had anyone close he could talk to. Until it got so bad that one person did help him.
The writing flows well, the going back and forth in time works, I found Miles to be a reliable narrator as he tells of what happened to him, as he tried to be as good as his dad, he is a three dimensional character, I liked Sabrina, Jerry Dickinson’s wife she was a very empathetic character. It was interesting to read about the White Turf weekend which is a high class annual major event, where race horse owners, trainers and jockeys from all over the world go. It’s not just about the horse racing there is music and art as well. Along with champagne of course.
Overall this was an interesting read, i would have liked a little more suspense or drama thrown in, but this is still an entertaining read. There was much more about horse racing, the rules, the weights. Gambling. But very well written. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Felix Francis studied Physics and Electronics at London University and then spent seventeen years teaching Advanced-Level Physics. The younger son of crime writer and National Hunt jockey Dick Francis, Felix assisted his father with both research and writing of his novels in a father-and-son writing partnership. Since Dick’s death, Felix has written fourteen successful novels.
The Felix Francis & Dick Francis novels combined have sold over 80 million copies worldwide in 40 languages.