June 12, 1978 12:00 PM

by Dick Francis

The jockey who can write may with this, his 18th book, finally be established as the novelist who used to ride. The hero is an accountant and amateur jockey who is kidnapped twice before he manages to uncover a far-ranging swindle. Unlike some of the other Francis works, which have been darkened by unpleasant characters and nasty aftertaste, Risk is bright, crisp and laugh-out-loud funny. In one vignette, reminiscent of the best Hitchcock films, the hero jumps off a sailboat to escape. He is saved from recapture by a 40ish headmistress, a virgin, who asks him to bed her so she will understand why all her young students get so excited about sex. The scene is delicately and wonderfully evoked; so is the rest of the book. (Harper & Row, $8.95)

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