Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Book Review: Banker

Title: Banker 

Author: Dick Francis

Date: 1983

Publisher: Putnam

ISBN: 978-0399127786

Length: 306 pages

Quote: “Very little research is done into equine disease, chiefly because of the cost...”

Banker might not be the ideal title for this novel. Though the narrator does work in a bank, the story is about his detective work—solving a series of murders (of humans) by identifying a pattern of cruelty to animals. (The two things are connected: his bank job gets him appointed guardian to an abused race horse.)

Different mystery novels appeal to different readers. Some like a lot of violence, and forensic details about the murders...they won't like Banker. Some like a cozy mystery, and prefer, if possible, that the mystery be murder-free—a good writer can always give readers a good time solving robberies rather than murders, or proving that the alleged victim faked the murder in order to start a new life...that's not Banker's niche, either. Some demand more challenging mental puzzles than I do, and some demand less.

For me, personally, Banker didn't work as a mystery. I spotted the murderer at once, and the half dozen or so cases of his cruelty to animals were as gratuitous a gross-out as I've ever read.

For you...I don't know. If you read five or six Agatha Christie mysteries before you started grumbling that they all seemed to be the same story in different settings, if after age twelve you find any suspense in Nancy Drew, if you enjoyed a whole book of Father Brown stories for the suspense rather than the comedy appeal, then for you Banker will probably work as a mystery.

Then again, it might work just as an English horse story. In real life Francis was a real English horseman, a professional jockey and steeplechaser, part of that world of horsey Brits in which so many of the stories handed to so many U.S. baby-boomers used to be set. His horse stories don't have to be challenging detective stories to offer some of us a pleasant escape back to a place we enjoy revisiting, if only via bedside reading. If that's what you're looking for (as I suspect it was, for the person who gave me my copy of this book), then you'll probably enjoy Banker.

If you noticed after reading two or three stories that in a Nancy Drew mystery a person whose bad manners call attention to themselves always Dunnit, and in a Father Brown mystery a non-Catholic or lapsed or erring Catholic always Dunnit, and so on, then you might enjoy Banker as a romance. Or then again you might want to frivol through a Mrs Murphy Mystery, match your store of general knowledge with Lord Peter Wimsey's, or get gritty in the city with Walter Mosley.

Dick Francis no longer has any use for a dollar so this one is not a Fair Trade Book...it's possible that some reader is not familiar with this paragraph. To buy it online you'd send $5 per book, $5 per package, and $1 per online payment to this web site; you could add three other books of this size to one $5 package, and if they were as easy to find online as Banker is, that would bring the total to $25 via U.S. postal money order to Boxholder, P.O. Box 322, or $26 via Paypal to the address you'd get by e-mailing salolianigodagewi @ yahoo. (Salolianigodagewi is the account that sorts out legitimate inquiries and refers them to the individual Paypal account for the appropriate member of this web site.)