In Flying Finish, Henry Gray is a lonely, buttoned down, slightly impoverished earl with a pilot's license, a chip on his shoulder about his ancestry, and a bad attitude in general. When his sister goes deservedly ballistic on him, he attempts to shake himself out of his rut by taking a job as a groom who escorts horses on international flights.

His life starts to change when he notices an odd pattern: grooms on flights between England and Italy tend to vanish in Italy. And then, on one flight, he meets an Italian woman who smuggles birth control pills (illegal in Italy at that time) and speaks no English. It's love at first sight - probably the only love-at-first-sight story that I've ever found truly convincing. (I completely buy sexual attraction at first sight, and camaraderie/connection within a brief conversation. But Francis sells me on actual love.) Meanwhile, Henry begins to realize that the vicious young groom who's been bullying him on flights may not only resent Henry for being a lord...

Despite some oddities and dated bits, Flying Finish is one of my favorite Francis novels. The romance subplot pulls off a very difficult premise, and the climax is a masterpiece of sustained suspense. Warning for horse harm. Also for human harm.

In some ways Rat Race feels like a run-up to Flying Finish. It also features a withdrawn pilot hero and some extremely suspenseful flying sequences. But the romance, while nice, isn't as memorable, and the hero's blossoming from a going-through-the-motions existence to actually living isn't as vividly drawn. It's also hampered by a hilariously dated portrayal of a creeper hippie. (Creeper hippies still exist. It's the language that hasn't aged well.)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)

From: [personal profile] liviapenn

I am loving your Dick Francis posts. These are like my fallback "if there's nothing I want to read that's out in paperback and I know I'm going to be on a plane or a bus, buy one of these" books, but somehow you've still read all different ones than I have!
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore

Ooh, I don't think I've read this one....I forget which ones I did read, I'll have to look it up.
raincitygirl: (Default)

From: [personal profile] raincitygirl

I love Flying Finish. It's my favourite Francis!!!! Thanks for enumerating all the reasons to like it.
hunningham: (Default)

From: [personal profile] hunningham

Coming in a little late, but I have to go and reread Flying Finish. I remember it from years ago, and like you, I found the love-at-first-sight convincing altho' I personally am about as romantic as a frog.

I have a deep fondness for Francis; he takes work seriously and writes about people's jobs and what they do all day, and he does it well. Very rare. Also, just mulling over why I like him so much, each book has a completely new protagonist. Detective novels normally end on a high, and then at the start of the next book in the series, the author presses "Reset" and we get "So I lost the job, my wife, took up drinking and now we're back where we started". Francis lets his characters succeed, change, grow up and then he leaves them there.

From: [identity profile]

_Flying Finish_ is one of my favorite Francis books. It feels very realistic being inside Gray's head, in particular.

From: [identity profile]

it's one of my favorites, too, for all of the reasons you list, and for henry's extremely reserved brand of secret badassery he's unaware of. and the descriptions of flying.

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