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A very British murder story – OXFORDSHIRE

3rd May 2021

Guilty Not Guilty by Felix Francis, a very British murder story set mainly in OXFORDSHIRE.

A very British murder story - OXFORDSHIRE

Felix Francis is the son of Dick Francis, the legendary writer of horse racing mysteries. He carries on the family tradition, albeit in an at times grittier manner. Guilty Not Guilty is his ninth solo book – having collaborated with his late father on four. Dick Francis himself wrote a very impressive forty books! I guess they can be a little formulaic in style, but each one is stand alone.

In Guilty Not Guilty, Bill Russell is an honorary steward working at a race meeting when he gets a visit from a police detective. He is told that his wife has been found strangled and that his brother in law, Joe, has accused him of the murder. He is taken away for questioning. His brother, an eminent QC, advises him and they hatch a plan to prove his innocence – despite the building circumstantial evidence. Bill suspects the very unpleasant Joe of being the perpetrator but his first task is to prove to the police that he couldn’t have committed the crime before getting them to look in another direction for the killer.

Guilty Not Guilty is a very British murder mystery. It is centred amongst the countryside horse racing fraternity. Horse racing to the British landed class is a very traditional sport with behaviours and mores of its own. At one stage Bill goes off to visit his elderly parents in where else but their unheated castle in the Welsh Borders. He shakes hands when he meets his father – as he has done since his childhood. No hugging here…Emotions are not expressed (which probably does Bill no good in his interviews withe police where he perhaps comes over as somewhat heartless, even though he is deeply grieving).

The story moves on to a very British court procedural as the suspect is put on trial for the murder of Amelia Russell. We (the readers) are swung one way and then the other (as are the jurors) by the persuasive powers of both sets of counsel. Eventually a verdict is reached.

But don’t tune out quite yet…

Guilty Not Guilty is a really good read from a highly professional writer.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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  1. User: Yvonne@FictionBooks

    Posted on: 05/05/2021 at 8:39 am

    Hi Tony!

    Nice review. The instantly recognizable formulaic nature of a very British murder/mystery, can often be a balm to the more complex psychological thrillers, fast-paced US police procedurals, or dour Nordic noir, which cross my desk so often these days! I love them all in their own unique ways and like to mix ‘n’ match my reading!

    Despite not being a huge fan of the horse world, I read just about all of the Dick Francis books and a couple of those on which he collaborated with son Felix. I must admit that I haven’t followed Felix’s solo career, but perhaps I should check it out!

    If you enjoy this style of writing and storyline, you might also like the writing of John Francome, although it seems as though he laid down his pen in 2010, after publishing in excess of twenty books.


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