Bolt, by Dick Francis. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 320 pp. $17.95. ``Bolt'' is Dick Francis's 25th novel, and it is far from being his best. It continues the story of champion steeplechase jockey Kit Fielding, introduced in last year's ``Break In.'' Kit, although in many ways a typical Francis hero, is too good to be true, too much the knight in racing colors.
The criminal activity - the attempts by a ruthless business partner to coerce the uncle of Kit's fianc'ee into signing his approval of their company's manufacture of arms - is almost a MacGuffin `a la Alfred Hitchcock; it has little importance on its own.
The novel is more about preserving one's honor and good name than about solving crimes, selling arms, or racing horses. Four racehorses are murdered with a humane killer called a ``bolt,'' but little else of real interest occurs. Golden Urchin, by Madeleine Brent. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co. 330 pp. $16.95.
Madeleine Brent has added elements of ``Clan of the Cave Bear''-style anthropology to her usual blend of Victorian era, damsel-in-distress romance, suspense, and adventure. The result is ``Golden Urchin,'' an engrossing and entertaining novel about an Irish heiress who is kidnapped as a baby and raised by a tribe of aborigines in the Australian outback.
Meg runs away from the tribe to find her own people; lives with an Englishman and his wife, who teach her English language and customs; narrowly escapes an attempt on her life; and travels to England, where she learns the truth about her heritage and the man who wants her dead.
The mystery is somewhat transparent, but it's great fun to see how Meg uses her aboriginal skills to foil the villain's plans and win the man she loves. A Place to Hide, by Evelyn Anthony. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 301 pp. $17.95.
This book is something of a departure for Anthony, whose most recent novels dealt with the world of British espionage. Her latest novel combines the suspense novel with a portrait of a wealthy Anglo-Irish family torn apart by conflicting loyalties in contemporary Ireland.
When Claire Fraser, wife of a British Cabinet minister, learns that her older half brother, Frank Arbuthnot, has disappeared, she returns home to Ireland to find him. She doesn't realize that both she and Frank, who are completely devoted to each other, have become pawns in an IRA plot. The considerable suspense in the opening and closing chapters is lessened by the long middle section of flashbacks recounting Arbuthnot family history, and the linchpin of the story, the relationship between Claire and Frank, with its underlying hint of incest, is never fully explained. The Rising of the Moon, by William Martin. New York: Crown Publishers Inc. 474 pp. $18.95.
Martin, a native Bostonian, has written a historical novel set in Boston and Ireland during the six weeks leading up to Dublin's famous Easter Rising on April 24, 1916, six years before the establishment of the Irish Free State. Padraic Starr arrives in Boston on March 11 to buy guns and arrange for a ship to carry them across the Atlantic to his fellow rebels in Ireland. He enlists the help of his cousin, Tom Tracy, a rising politician who works for Boston's mayor, James Michael Curley, and Tom's Jewish girlfriend, a Zionist named Rachel Levka.
Intelligently written and occasionally absorbing, the novel is marred by a somewhat disjointed narrative and, although Martin tells a good story, he fails to involve the reader emotionally.