triple crown book coverReviewed by Kelly Ferjutz

I loved the books by the author’s father, Dick Francis, so how in the world have I missed those by the son? Darned if I know, but I won’t miss any more of them, I can guarantee that. I’m going back to start with the first one, in an effort to catch up. However, Triple Crown happily stands on its own, so you won’t have to fret at having missed anything.

You just jump right in here, at the beginning, the same as the protagonist, Jefferson Hinkley of the BHA, the British Horseracing Authority. But this time around finds him in the US in springtime–all because of the Triple Crown.

(A bit of history about this most prestigious of all sporting events in the US: the first race of the three is run at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The track is dirt and 1¼ miles in length, and has hosted the race consecutively since 1875. Two weeks later is the Preakness Stakes, run at Pimlico in Baltimore, Maryland, over a slightly shorter distance of 13⁄16 miles. This race is two years older, however it went on hiatus from 1891-1893. Third and final is the Belmont Stakes held at Belmont NY, just east of Queens in Nassau County. It is the oldest race having first run there in 1867, but also went on hiatus for two years, in 1911-1912. It is usually three weeks after the Preakness. All this is BIG stuff in the horse world: in all the years it has been held, only 12 horses have managed to win all three races. In addition to the trophies for each race, the bonus was in the $8 million class for the last triple winner in 2015. Not to mention after he retired from racing, his stud fees were in the quarter-million category!)

Of course, the bigger the stakes, the bigger the risks. Thus Jeff finds himself in the US, having been loaned to the US Federal Anti-Corruption in Sports Agency (FACSA) to find the mole in the organization who has been feeding info to someone in the racing community. Knowing there will be a raid before anyone else is an enormous advantage. Throw in illegal drugs (for both horses and people), undocumented workers from Central and South America, and the need for secrecy amongst all this big money takes on new meaning.

At the Derby, not only is the raid a disaster, but there’s a murder, and three of the top horses fall ill on the morning of the race. This is entirely too much for one day, so Jeff goes undercover as a groom for the next race at Belmont. Everyone throws hurdles in his way, but he’s nobody’s push-over. Of course, British law enforcement officers seldom carry weapons, but Jeff can handle himself quite well. The suspense seldom takes a breather, and all doesn’t always go the way it should.

Eventually, however, the diligent and courageous Hinkley finds his way through the thickets and finishes a winner. There is a bit of US/UK bias here and there, but not enough to put me off, by any means. We are, after all, one people separated by a common language. If you like action, horses, or travelogues, I think you’d enjoy Triple Crown. I certainly did!

First and foremost, Kelly is a reader, then a writer and editor. She adores Regency-set novels, and cozy mysteries. Every now and then, however, she finds something else to enjoy if it has a great premise with characters who belong in there, and fabulous writing! She writes under her own name, as well as her pen-name, Hetty St. James.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by G.P. Putnam’s Sons. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.