Written by Felix Francis

Review written by Tim Head

Tim Head started life as a professional cricketer, but after taking guard for the last time now teaches English at one of the UK’s top schools, where he has just completed a century of terms. He read his first Dick Francis novel when he was 11, over 50 years ago.

Simon & Schuster
RRP: £20
Released: September 16 2021

Half-way down St. Moritz’s iconic Cresta Run, former jockey Miles Pussett knows he’s in trouble. Brake too hard and all chance of a record time is out of the window, don’t brake at all and a paralysing fall beckons. The kind of dilemma in fact that he’s faced many times before: play safe and bow quietly out, or risk all on a game of pitch and toss.

Dick Francis fans will feel immediately at home here, thrust into the heart of the action from the very beginning, an action that promises twists and turns and a headlong descent into danger and despair. Yet however familiar the opening may seem, Iced soon breaks new ground, delivering less of a racing-based adrenaline rush and more of a tautly plotted psychological drama. Certain elements remain the same: the racing scenes are expertly done, the locations beautifully drawn and as ever, just the right amount of wholesome love interest. What is different however is a twin narrative that moves effortlessly between past and present, and a searing honesty about the difficulties facing a boy not only treading the footsteps of a famous father, but one forced to do so while in the grip of PTSD.

If the novel starts bang in the present with the grown-up Miles laughing in the face of danger, it soon takes us back to where it all began for him: not just why he wanted to career headlong down three-quarters of a mile of icy toboggan track, but to all that ensured he found himself in the Swiss mountains that freezing morning. And it is here that the novel starts to get really interesting, when we begin to discover the roadmap of his life, and what it was that set him on the route that would see past and present collide in a breakneck finale.

Felix Francis pulls no punches here and goes to places few would care to follow as he carefully details the trauma that surrounds young Miles’s life, magnifying the internal anguish of an apprentice jockey fighting not only a battle with the scales but also the terrifying memories of his father’s tragic death. Both triumph and disaster are ever present, but those imposters are ultimately dwarfed by exploitation and an addiction which see a promising career in ruins almost before it began. At times it is an uncomfortable read: we identify all too easily with young Miles, but are powerless to influence the damaging choices he makes, choices that leave him exposed and vulnerable. Not for the first time, however, the Swiss mountains offer redemption: as all his yesterdays cohere and offer one last chance to get back in the saddle, Miles is forced into a final confrontation, a confrontation that sees him finally understand his past and lay the ghosts that haunt him.

It is a most satisfactory ending, and one which has more than a few echoes of other great Dick Francis novels. Where it perhaps differs is that we have come to really care about Miles: he is not any one-dimensional hero straight off the production line, but rather a complex and detailed character defiantly fighting for his own truth.

Book Reviews
About Us
Contact Us

Privacy Policy | Contact Shots Editor