On the first day of Royal Ascot, the crowd rejoices in a string of winning favorites. Ned Talbot has worked all his life as a bookmaker—taking over the family business from his grandfather—so he knows not to expect any sympathy from the punters as they count their winnings, and him his losses. He’s seen the ups and downs before—but, as the big gambling conglomerates muscle in on small concerns like his, Ned wonders if it’s worth it any more.
When a grey-haired man steps forward from the crowd, claiming to be his father, Ned’s life is thrown into further turmoil. He’d been told since he was a baby that his parents had died in a car crash.
Barely an hour later, his newly found father is stabbed by an unknown assailant in the Ascot car park. Blood oozing from his abdomen, his father warns Ned to “be very careful.” But of whom? Of what? Ned finds himself in a race to solve his father’s riddle, a race where coming in second could cost him more than even money, it could cost him his life. . . .
First published in the UK on 3 September 2009 and the US on 25 August 2009.