Dick Francis on a motorbike

May 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Sum Net GainSum Net Gain – Charles Fenn
Fastprint Publishing
Paperback 281pp. £9.99 ISBN 9781844268511

“Dick Francis on a motorbike” is how Charles Fenn describes his thriller. “But with more sex.” He’s right about the sex.

James Turner is a Cambridge graduate, one of the stars of his set on and off the rugby field. After graduating, though, he turns his back on career and fortune. Ten years later, when former friends are civil rights lawyers, dot com entrepreneurs and MI5 operatives, he is a motorcycle dispatch rider in London and openside flanker for a semi-professional local team. A reluctantly-attended reunion opens old wounds. Riding home afterwards he is chance witness to an attempted rape and rescues the victim. The two plot lines converge in a satisfactory way to a dramatic conclusion.

The comparison with Dick Francis is appropriate, and not simply because the story is told in the first person. The narrator is intelligent and self depreciating, and like Sid Halley and his colleagues he is underestimated by the opposition because of his occupation. Silly of them considering that he is six foot two and built as a rugby flanker should be. He is also, like a jockey, tough and focused. Having seen several colleagues killed in road accidents, his mantra is concentrate or die.

Unlike Francis, Fenn has a taste for philosophy, and one of the book’s themes is an ethical one – why choose to do the right thing in a world where God has been replaced by a blind watchmaker? The title conveys one answer: balance risk against benefit and select the path which offers the greatest benefit to the greatest number. Though these moral musings are fascinating in themselves, I found that they interrupted the action more than once. Fortunately the rugby player wins out over the philosopher and James Turner ends up storming through the visiting team’s defenders.

Oh yes, the sex. Well, there’s a fair amount of it and not much left to the imagination. I didn’t find it prurient or pornographic, though. There is tenderness and humour in the love-making, which is as it should be.

This is a book which I suspect celebrates the writer’s personal passions – motorbikes, rugby, philosophy and sex – and his enthusiasm shows on every page. An enjoyable and engaging read.

Sum Net Gain Amazon (UK)

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