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am 20. Januar 1999
Another exciting thrill ride from one of my favorite authors. In this book, "the turf" takes a supporting role behind a much nastier arena, the world of elective politics. The narrator, Benedict , is the teenage son of George Juliard, a charismatic upstart parliamentary candidate. The father-son relationship forms the centerpiece of the story with some very dirty politicking to keep things interesting. The typical Francis "voice" sounds just a bit out of place coming from a 17-year-old, but as everyone around him learns very quickly, Ben is no ordinary teenager. The villains are predictably nasty: a local codger with a wandering eye and a taste for arson, and a slimy corporate type who wants to be the power, if not behind the throne, then at least behind the movers and shakers in Parliament. There's also an absolutely poisonous journalist/papparazzo who pops up with the odd character assassination every once in awhile Their cumulative efforts to get revenge on Ben and his increasingly prominent father get lamer as they go along. But at the same time, the father-son story becomes more and more compelling. Francis' grasp of the minutiae of the political process is dead on. Even if you've never experienced an election in the UK, many of the activities and characters have their equals on this side of "the pond" as well. This has joined my top list of Francis books, along with Wild Horses and Straight. I only hope that Mr. Francis' health stays robust so he can keep entertaining us for many a year!
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am 3. November 1997
As a long time reader of Francis, and one of his greatest admirers, I always look forward to each of his new offerings. Unfortunately, 10 Lb Penalty is a HUGE disappointment. Sadly, this does not come as a great surprise. For the past 5-6 years there has been an enormous decline in the quality of his work. At times, I became suspicious that due to his advancing years, ands change in style, a "ghost writer" was being employed. I became more certain of it several years ago. While waiting for a plane in the Seattle airport I saw Francis and two associates exit the plane I was about to board. My initial excitement gave way to sadness, as his physical and mental condition had clearly deteriorated to a point that constant help and attention was clearly required. It was then that I felt certain that editor's were playing a larger role in his declining novels. I have since re-read several of his earlier works, and enjoyed them immensely. He should be remembered for the brilliant Bonecrack (and so many others), not his recent "works" from the current publishing house.
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am 2. Dezember 1998
It's an insult to Dick Francis's talent to claim as some reviewers have that 10-lb Penalty is up to his usual standard. All you need to do is reread some of his earliest books (For Kicks, maybe, or In the Frame) to see how far it falls short. The plot is weak, the characters generally flat and uninteresting, the villain's motives unclear. And to any Briton with a background in politics, the political scene is hopelessly unconvincing. A generous, honourable man with no previous experience of -- or apparent interest in -- politics is elected to Parliament and becomes a junior minister almost instantly, with none of the usual bag-carrying apprenticeships? I don't think so. It's a shame. But hey, no-one's perfect. Dick Francis has come up with duds before (Slay Ride, anyone?), but they are far outnumbered by a stream of gripping, tightly plotted thrillers. If you haven't read Francis before, don't start with this one -- pick almost any of his earliest titles.
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am 30. September 1997
The hero of Dick Francis' new thriller is a bit younger than his usual -- he's just 17 when the novel opens. Otherwise, the author sticks with his winning formula: incorruptible and modest hero, wicked foes trying to smear his reputation, beautiful horses to ride. Like most Francis heroes, Benedict Juliard has had an unusual childhood with an absentee parent. His father George summons Ben shortly before his 18th birthday to help him campaign for a seat in Parliament. But George quickly makes enemies, who become ever more jealous and violent as his political star rises. Benedict, feeling like a true son to his father for the first time, is determined to protect him as he seeks the job of prime minister.The good guys may be a bit too flawless in this book, and if you don't understand the British political system, it could be tough going. Otherwise, dive in and hang on! I read it in five hours.
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am 13. Mai 1998
The idea of a 17 year old having the presence of mind depicted in this story is difficult to believe. This young man had virtually none of the adversity growing up as other central Francis characters. I can't argue that he isn't smart; I just feel the character is not believable. The plot is all right, but the end can be predicted by the middle of the book. It had little of the suspense of other Francis books, such as Banker. I found myself not picking up the book at every chance, a major departure from reading other Francis books. Dick Francis is a great, great writer who has given millions of people many hours of reading pleasure. While entertaining, this one just wasn't up to his standards. I sincerely hope the next one rekindles his old fire.
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am 9. März 1998
My favorite Christmas gift each year is the latest Dick Francis novel. It is a tradition started by my mother-in-law several years ago, when she would buy the latest, read it first and then give to me as a present. We got on famously. While Mom is gone, Pop continues the tradition and the latest from Mr. Francis, 10 Lb. Penalty, is his usual good mix of story, detail and suspense. The villain may be identified early, but the plot builds nicely to its climax. With Francis, the fun is how--not who. While this book may not have Sid Halley, Ben Juliard is quite competent and enjoyable. Francis rarely dissappoints, and this is no exception. Another good read.
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I believe that I have read all of Dick Francis' works, most of which centered around various horse racing venues in England. Although his central characters in all his works had different names and somewhat different occupations, they were all in someway related to horseracing. And all could seemingly leap tall buildings, etc., and, of course, solve these crimes! This is a great escape for a few hours into a "can do" world, where the bad guys ultimately get caught, and the good guy in some way, shape, or form, gets the girl. This is Mr Francis' last book, regretfully.
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am 26. September 1998
I've read all of Dick Francis's books which are consistently readable and interesting. Some of them of great, especially his earlier, grittier works. However, I've noticed a tendency in his more recent books for him to focus on the problems of the wealthy. Maybe this betrays a little boredom with his work, or fatigue. Having a wealthy protagonist of course makes a lot of problems easier to solve, but it also makes the novel's problems not very interesting. This is true of 10 Lb. Penalty, a pleasant read, but hardly his best work.
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am 19. September 1998
Few writers have as keen an insight into what motivates people as Dick Francis. And he creates a story that is hard to put down, if for no other reason than you want to see if you have figured out the "bad" guy's motivations. What a shame that this is his last book! He has taught us so much about how people work, the meaning of honor and courage, and captured such wonderful sippets of life. I've been honored to share in his learning experiences and travels. Thank you, sir, for your wonderful tales!
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am 30. September 1997
Dick Francis's 10 lb. Penalty is a very disappointing mystery from a usually reliable author. The plot is almost non-existant, the villains are obvious, and the narrator is unbelievable. Francis ignores some exciting plot possibilities (insurance fraud,handicapping systems) for a tired rework of a boy's relationship with his father. Francis is also still using his "er-" to indicate deep thought in character speeches, and it doesn't work any better than it ever did. I'm asking for my money back.
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