I haven’t read any Dick Francis since I was a teenager. At the time, I loved mysteries and horses, so his novels hit a sweet spot for me. Recently, my brother-in-law gifted me with To the Hilt (thanks, Stephen!), and it was fun rediscovering Dick Francis. While it didn’t contain a clever, twisty whodunit plot, To the Hilt was enjoyable reading.
The protagonist is Alexander Kinloch, son of aristocracy who chooses to live off the grid in Scotland so he can paint. He’s considered to be the eccentric member of the family, but it turns out he also has a strong sense of duty and a pretty practical head on his shoulders. When his stepfather falls ill, his mother summons him to London to help take care of her husband’s business, a brewery.
The brewery’s head of finance recently embezzled millions, leaving the business in dire straits. Alexander has to deal with this while fending off a hostile step sister and violent thugs. The former thinks Alexander wants to steal her inheritance while the latter think he’s hiding something of value and try to beat the location out of him.
Alexander has a reputation for being good at hiding things and, in fact, he is hiding some valuables, including family heirlooms and his stepfather’s racehorse. This all plays into the plot as Alexander tries to track down the brewery’s lost money. Fortunately, he has a quirky PI/master of disguise to help out and watch his back.
The characters were probably the best thing about To the Hilt. Alexander was eccentric but in a very likable way. The PI was amusing without being over the top and his interactions with Alexander were funny. And then there were numerous relatives – an aristocratic uncle with shades of Scottish chieftain, a mother with severely repressed emotions, a strong estranged wife – all done well.
The plot was engaging, but not in a classic mystery way. There was some periodic excitement and suspense, although mostly it was just an interesting story told with heart and humor. I liked it.
Thanks for the recommendation, Stephen!
Reminder – if you’re participating in the 2020 Thoughtful Reading Challenge, March’s challenge is to read a mystery novel. I’m hoping to finish Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile by the end of the month so I can tell you all about it. So far, it’s really good!