Blood Sport is one of Dick Francis's earlier novels, first published in 1967. It is edgier than most of his mysteries, and, in some ways, a little disturbing.
Like most of his books, this one involves a competent professional dragged off his patch for some amateur sleuthing involving race horses. In this case, 38-year-old Gene Hawkins is a government personnel manager, at least on paper. His real job as some kind of spy-catching secret agent is only hinted at.
While on a (stress-induced) vacation, his boss distracts him with a moonlighting assignment to find three valuable stud horses stolen in America – an adventure that takes him from Tennessee horse country to the far corners of the American West.
The plot moves right along, with plenty of clever bits. But it is darker than the usual Francis story. Hawkins is depressed to the point of being suicidal, frequently considering shooting himself or otherwise doing himself in. He actively toys with the possibility of consoling himself in the arms of his boss's 17-year-old daughter. And there is a surprising death that makes sense in terms of Hawkins's situation, but gives the ending a moral ambiguity atypical of a Francis book.
Because Blood Sport deviates from Francis's winning formula, it may be off-putting to some loyal fans. Others will enjoy the variation on his usual themes.
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This counts as one of my books for the Audio Book Challenge, hosted by Teresa's Reading Corner.