reading Dick Francis's mysteries for about twenty-five years now.
"The New Dick Francis" has been an annually occurring, eagerly
anticipated treat, for most of that time.
But the last few have ranged from Competent But Not Outstanding to just
plain Disappointing; the last Francis i would say that i unreservedly
enjoyed was "Decider", with its story about wonderfully vicious family
politics and its interesting protagonist.
Well, i'm sorry to say, "Shattered" isn't *quite* that good. The
interesting protagonist is there -- the glassblowing background is both
interesting and unusual, ranking with Kit Fielding, Tim Ekaterin and
Sid Halley in that regard,but the story is not all that great.
There is just a bit too much air of the benevolent magician pulling a
rabbit from his hat for our amazement -- and a few too many rabbits
from hats in the working-out of the story.
The motives of most of the characters don't really ring true, and the
McGuffin -- what's actually *on* the videotape that so many Nasty
People seem to want -- has an even more tinny sound. The true identity
of a major character, which has bothered Logan for much of the book,
while important, is merely stated, rather than revealed through action
or characterisation, when it becomes necessary for us to know.
But the way to get over thin ice is quickly, and Francis (as usual)
certainly can cover dodgy ground quickly.
As frequently is the case, the big climax turns around the hero's
specialities; in this book the climax is in the protagonist's
glass-blowing shop, where, among other things, a glob of
1800-fahrenheit-degree molten glass on the end of a punty rod makes a
memorable weapon and means of persuasion. Also, as usual with Francis,
it is wise to read carefully all the apparently inconsequential
scene-setting descriptions of aspects and tricks of the protagonist's
trade. (My only regret along those lines is that the rabbit pulled from
the hat in this regard is just a small bunny, not the man-eating rodent
from "Monty Python & the Holy Grail", which would have been a bit
Also, the love interest and romance in this one are as uniquely
Franciscan as any of his books contain -- which means that, as is often
the case, he hits us from left field with an amusing and truly romantic
Several characters, who -- we are *told*, but not truly *convinced* --
are central to the plot are wonderful eccentrics, and the group of
volunteer bodyguards that Logan accumulates as he goes along are both
touching and amusing, clearly painted with a typical few deft strokes
of the Francis brush.
If there are any earlier Francis books you haven't read (with the
possible exceptions of "Slayride" and "Trial Run"), i'd recommend
picking them up and reading them before grabbing this one.
But you should definitely read this one, because, overall, you'll
probably enjoy it.