Fans of Francis will be thrilled to see the unflappable jockey-turned-private eye Sid Halley back up for a fourth book, after debuting in 1965’s Odds Against. Significantly, this is the final Dick Francis novel with his name as the sole author.
As per formula, the reader is presented with a whodunit while discovering yet another interesting facet of British horse racing. In this case, we learn all about internet gambling and race-fixing while Sid is hot on the trail of the crooks.
We also learn a lot more about Halley’s personality and emotional characteristics. In previous books, he was much like Jim Rockford: doggedly pursuing his prey while the prey continued to beat the tar out of him. Under Orders changes tactics by describing the bad guys going after someone other than Sid himself (since he now has a reputation) to try to stop his investigation. That change allows a lot of soul searching and honest assessment of life for our hero.
As is common among aging authors, the book takes up the usual shelf space, while being printed with larger type on thicker paper; this is not an extended read. The characters are interesting, but little space is devoted to real background or development. Although not strictly necessary, this is more enjoyable if the reader has already read the three previous Sid Halley mysteries: Odds Against, Whip Hand, and Come to Grief.
Rated: Moderate. Although there are only two uses of strong language, the narrative is heavily peppered with inappropriate references to deity together with plenty of uses of mild and moderate vulgar language. Some British readers may be taken aback by the sheer number (more than 70) of instances of “bloody” and “bleeding.” There are no explicit sexual situations.