Welcome to L. This was one of the hardest ones to pick a favorite for--apparently I am lacking in L titles. Want to know the one that finally won out? Here you go..
I'm a sucker for horse stories. I'm also a sucker for fragile heroes who don't know they are heroes. And Dick Francis, that former jockey for the Queen (yes, of England!), combines both elements into all his books. While Longshot isn't my most favorite Francis novel, it is one that didn't have to vie with ten other choices, so it gets to represent all of the Francis books I've enjoyed.
In this charming tale, we have a travel/survival writer who wants to be a novelist, and he's a bit down on his luck, so he takes a job to write a biography for a famous racehorse trainer. But this trainer has something to hide, and our lovable writer gets thrown into danger and intrigue. Being a survival writer means he knows, technically, how to survive, but he's never really had to apply the skills, until now.
All of Francis' books are mysteries, and his main characters are all very much alike, but what I love is that they are endearing. And they each have a trade (often one that has nothing to do with horses, like wain merchant, gemologist, movie direction, etc) and they are well-researched. Thus, every time I read a new Francis book, I feel like I'm learning a new trade. And for this reader, that's like a cherry on top.
If you haven't read Dick Francis, pick up Longshot. My very favorite so far is Proof, and To The Hilt is a close second. Any book by him will do, but those three are fantastic gems.