Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Driving Force - Authored by Dick Francis - Published in 1992

The creation of the character of Freddie Croft was perhaps inspired by Dick Francis’s own real life horse transporting business (or rather, his son's). Freddie Croft is an ex- jockey, who now makes a living transporting thoroughbreds around the UK, and in the EU, in ferries. Croft is an astute businessman, with a roaring enterprise called CROSS RACEWAYS. But even the best make mistakes and do not always lead a charmed life - a lesson Freddie learns the hard way.

Dave Yates and Brett Gardener stand before him, defensively whining it wasn’t their fault, that they had offered a ride to ‘four eyes’ when the truck was empty i.e sans the horses (it would invalidate the contract if they gave a lift while the consignment was on board). His cardinal rule, the only rule he had for them, was broken - and now the two stood like two sheep that have gone astray.

But, even so, things couldn’t have been all that bad - unless…the hitchhiker was to drop down stone cold dead! And, that is what had happened to him - the two men tried to wake him at Newbury. Not the atypical vagabond at the side of the road, as he’d expected, Freddie  thought to himself - the dead man was wearing a suit, his girth told the tale of a life spent pursuing gastronomical delights, his lay there, gold ring and ‘shoes pointing mutely to heaven’. His name, as evident by his credentials in a burgeoning wallet was Kevin Keith Ogden, from Nottingham.

Now, we all know, dead men tell no tales and are no good for business!  To make matters worse, a number of mysterious containers are found under the vehicles. The mechanic who made the discovery ends up being the second corpse. Could it be that Croft’s transport vehicles are being used as carriers for some sort of smuggling? These incidents also endanger Freddie Croft’s life - as he seems to get tangled in a web of deceit, betrayal and insurmountable dangers.

Jogger, Freddie's mechanic, who finds containers attached under many of the transport vans, ends up with a broken neck in the inspection pit. Croft is kidnapped and almost drowned. Freddie also comes to the conclusion that this is bigger than he can single handedly solve - Nina, an investigator from the Jockey Club Security steps in to help him. She is chosen to work undercover in the business. The stakes in this conspiracy are high, and they threaten the existence of both Freddie and his business. Also, he uncovers a sinister plot to kill these precious horses through disease. Another prominent clue is the discovery of strange fluids – his sister, a chopper flying scientist suggests a drug-smuggling angle.

Francis has a way with describing the characters in his book - gay drivers, cockney, diligent policemen,  a chopper flying sister, a lover who is older than Freddie - all add flavor to the colorful landscape of Driving Force. A wonderful narrative, with harrowing details of Freddie Croft’s ordeals whilst battling villains and conspiracies. Dick Francis is a master story teller who engages the reader; if this is your first time read, be prepared to get hooked!

Driving Force - Authored by Dick Francis - Published in 1992

No comments: