Blood Sports, by Jonathan Harlen

We had just walked past the half-way line when we heard it.
The heavy, thudding sound of a helicopter, coming in low over the hills.
The sound very quickly got louder. Choppers aren’t known for their lightning speed, but this baby was certainly moving. It was flying without lights as well. By the time we picked out its shape silhouetted against the night sky above the floodlights, it was right on top of us.
It swooped in and landed in a corner of the training field, forty metres away. As soon as it touched down, a side door opened. Six men hit the ground running. they were wearing balaclavas, and were dressed in black combat fatigues. All six of them were carrying black assault rifles. Without a word they fanned out and sprinted across the field towards us.

Fletcher Smith is a 14 year-old boy, living in his father’s office at the Australian Institute of Sport. His parents are recuperating in a Swiss health farm after a car accident that Fletcher knows was no accident. He is sure the crash was masterminded by Samson Bolivar, high-flying sports-management specialist and (according to Fletcher) master criminal. In his parent’s absence, Fletcher is taking on some of his family’s sports crime investigations. It’s a great way to avoid going back to school. Blood Sports begins with Fletcher and his friend/minder, Frank Suleymanoglou, witnessing a high-tech kidnap of the newly appointed super coach for the Australian rugby team. Even though no one has employed them, Fletcher and ex-boxer Frank begin to investigate. There are many suspects, so they start with the closest – the recently sacked captain of the Australian rugby team.

Blood Sports mixes criminal investigation on a grand scale with elite sport. Jonathan Harlen puts his tongue firmly in his cheek and takes the reader on a roller coaster voyage through the rarefied world that is elite sport. In the best tradition of private investigation, Fletcher and Frank experience high octane adventure and repeatedly escape the most un-escapable circumstances. Think teenage Bond with the same level of adrenalin and absurdity. There is techno-speak to spare, whether it’s on the specs of helicopters, the importation of banned weapons or the pathway to tennis stardom. Blood Sports is the second in Harlen’s Fletcher Smith Sports P.I. series. Recommended for upper-primary to lower-secondary readers.

Blood Sports, Jonathan Harlen
2008 Scholastic Press
ISBN: 9781741690200