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Avg. Rating: 4.5
One of his best books, lovable characters, great plot
We have read every Dick Francis novel, some forty (!) in all. We marvel at the author's ability to endear the lead characters to the reader within just a few pages. While our hero is always a man, it is always a man men would like to be like, and woman would like to find! Ted Ekaterin is no exception -- while he works in an investment bank, making daily decisions on big business loans, he is all of humble, courteous and pleasant, sensitive, caring, personable and smart. No wonder he is successful, even if his family founded the institution in question.
One of Tim's loans is to syndicate a champion racehorse getting ready to perform at stud. From this development we learn not only a good deal about investment banking but the inside of the horse breeding business, especially from a financial viewpoint. When the offspring start to show birth defects, irregularly, our hero is suspicious enough to practically start living at the stables to unravel what is going on. When the horse owner's daughter, with whom Tim has developed an affectionate plutonic relationship, is murdered, the mystery gets really serious. Are the TV celebrity horse "healer" and herbal remedy specialist and his "cooperative" veterinarian bad guys or victims? Can Tim's pharmacist "girlfriend" help trace some important clues? Will the horse farm and Tim's reputation survive?
An interesting sub-plot, one presented in poignant prose, concerns Tim's boss Gordon, who is slowly losing the war with Parkinson's disease, and Gordon's wife Judith. While it's not clear how it got started, Tim and Judith find themselves in love, but are too honorable to ever act on their feelings. Toward the end of the book, when Gordon's health is in serious jeopardy, will Tim and Judith get the chance to unite?
Francis is known for relatively non-violent mysteries, with pleasant leading characters, and enough suspense to entertain, even if at a level less than the thrills and chills of writers like Patterson or Sandford. Nonetheless, we love his characters, and never fail to enjoy his stories. "Banker" is indeed one of our favorite books of all time.
Lifeless characters, repetitious plot
I've read more than a dozen Dick Francis mysteries. Most are good, some are great, a few are not quite up to par. But this one definitely stunk. Instead of a tightly written 200 pages, it was 300 repetitious, boring pages. The main character was a cipher and his "love interest," a married woman, just happens to become free at the very end of the book. How contrived can you get? Prior to that, in the last 60 or so pages Francis lived up to his best plotting self, although the main character's near death experience was not original. Oh well. I bought it for 50 cents at a book sale and wasted only a few hours reading it, so I can't really complain.
A good investment for mystery&suspense fans!
Dick Francis is a formulaic writer, which is to say that one has a pretty good idea of the shape of the novel before one even cracks open the cover. While this would be a death knell for longevity for many, it hasn't been for Francis. This arises from the fact that his characters are so memorable and the milieu in which he casts his tales so rich and well defined that we totally forget that some of the plot mechanisms feel familiar.
Banker is a tale of a young British investment banker involved in a syndicate financing the stud career of a well know champion race horse. After the deal is sealed there arises a problem--it appears the horse is genetically defective. Our Banker suspects this is not entirely a natural phenomenon and starts investigating. As always with Francis, this leads to intrigue, violence and murder.
Francis' ability to skillfully enter into a wide array of worlds in his novels is another strength--the world of investment banking is brought into sharp focus in a way that makes it interesting--not terminally boring, as one would imagine.
Banker is one of Francis' very best works--the characters are vivid and compelling, the mystery here is more refined than usual, the suspense builds very nicely.
If you haven't yet tried Francis, this would be a great book to start with. It will set you on the path to a lot of great reading!
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