Under Orders, Dick Francis (Michael Joseph, £18.99)
Dick Francis addicts, who have been without their annual fix for far too long, can stop craving. Having not produced a book since the death of his wife, Mary, six years ago, the master of suspense is back with a vintage offering. As usual, the former jump jockey uses the world of horse racing as a backdrop, and his 40th thriller has a break-neck gallop with skulduggery, deceit and the customary liberal supply of murder.
The author shrewdly relies on a tried-and-tested formula for his return, reintroducing one of his favourite heroes, Sid Halley, once a champion jockey but now a private detective. A self-made peer books the sleuth, who has made his name delving into racing’s dark side, to discover why his horses are not performing up to scratch. When Sid soon discovers his client’s jockey, who has just won a big race on Cheltenham Gold Cup day, lying dead in the car park with three bullets in his chest, he realises that he has probably taken on a life-threatening assignment.
Plenty of dangerous twists and turns, and a nerve tingling sting in the tail (a famous Francis trademark) follow, proving that, despite his extended sabbatical, the doyen of crime novelists still retains the golden touch.