Shattered: a reading of the novel
Reviewed: January 2, 2004
By: Dick Francis / read by Martin Jarvis
Publisher: Penguin Audiobooks
2 cassettes, 3 hours, $0.00
"Four of us drove together to Cheltenham races on the day
that Martin Stukely died there from a fall in a steeplechase."
It seemed to be a great race, right up to the point where Martinís
horse stumbled, threw him, landed on him, and then rolled all over him trying
to get to its feet. With such a graphic beginning, you might almost expect
that the rest of the book would have something to do with that death. Well,
it does and it doesnít.
It has more to do with a tape that Martin passed on to Gerard
Logan, the narrator of this story. Gerard is a fan of the races, but this
is one of those Dick Francis novels where the central character has an unusual
profession and where his craft has a lot to do with how the story turns out.
Gerard is a glassblower whose skills are just beginning to earn him wide
Earlier Francis heroes have been wine sellers, toy makers, painters
and builders, in addition to having professions connected to the racing world.
Within 24 hours Gerardís shop has been robbed and the mysterious
tape is gone. Video tape robberies have also taken place at his home and
at the home of Martinís family, where Bon-Bon and the kids were actually
gassed. Whatever they wanted, they didnít get it, for their next move is
to assault Gerard outside his shop and nearly break his wrists before he
is rescued by a friendly neighbour with a pair of Dobermans.
Perhaps Gerard had spooked them by that time, because he was
already exploring around the edges of this mystery, quizzing his friendís
racing valet, Eddie Payne, who had handed him the tape in the first place.
This move brought him to the attention of Payneís extended, and nefarious,
family, and put him in come considerable personal danger.
Gerard is used to a certain degree of tension in his life. In
order to be blown and shaped, glass has to be kept in a furnace ďat never
less than 1800 degrees FahrenheitĒ, and cooled in special annealing furnaces
in order to prevent the inner stresses from exploding the finished pieces.
This significant information is repeated several times, for reasons which
will become obvious.
Gerard isnít quite so used to emotional tension. It is slightly
amusing when his dead friendís wife starts to take a proprietary interest
in him. He is warned about this by one of the secondary characters in the
story. Of more importance is the sudden development of a mutual romantic
interest with Detective Constable Catherine Dodd, the investigating officer
in both his robbery and assault case.
Much of the story is consumed by Gerardís investigative efforts,
which involve him in several close calls, and cause him to meet a number
of interesting people. I was left wondering why he didnít simply tell Catherine
who is was that attacked him outside his shop once he had figured out their
identities, but that would have kept us from moving on with the rest of the
story, so Iím not going to quibble about it too much. A typical Francis hero
likes to clean up his own messes, and Iím sure I would have learned more
about his decision making process if I had been reading the book rather than
listening to this tightly abridged reading.
Shattered makes a great travel book, by the way. We listened
to it quite contentedly for half or our Christmas trip to the big city. Martin
Jarvis gave it a fine reading. I see from Amazon.ca that it is also available
in an unabridged reading, as well as in paperback and hardcover.
Fan websites speculate that this might be the 80 (at the time)
year old thriller writerís last book. His wife, who was an integral partner
in his writing process, died last fall, and thereís a feeling that he might
not carry on without her assistance. If this is the case, fans can take refuge
in the knowledge that there are 41 novels out there. Iíve read only half
a dozen myself and listened to probably twice that many. Iíve never been