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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Saturday, 2 August 2014

"The ways of the world" by Robert Goddard

I used to be a massive Robert Goddard fan. His tightly constructed novels usually featured a whodunnit element based on something that had happened a long time n the past. But recently he seems to be missing his form. I have been disappointed to some extent with Fault Line, Blood Count, Long Time Coming, and Found Wanting.

This book is set in Paris in 1919 but all events are more or less contemporary to that. Fearless WWI flying ace James 'Max' Maxted searches for the reasons for his diplomat father's murder in the context of the Versailles Conference that would shape Europe in between the wars. There are intrigues relating to a Russian monarchist group, a stolen box of Chinese secrets, a French traitor and a German masterspy. Somewhere in this mix is a set of Sumerian seals and an Arab cat burglar nicknamed Le Singe.

Despite such promising ingredients this fails to create a classic Goddard dish. The hero  is far from the usual down-at-heel reluctant protagonist of most of Goddard's fiction. Rather, he is an ersatz James Bond who never really becomes interesting. And none of the mysteries deliver. By the end of the book I was unconvinced that the accepted reason for Sir Henry Maxted's death was the real reason, I had no idea why Le Singe was doing what he was doing, I was sure the Sumerian seals must have some part to play but they hadn't, the French traitor hadn't been adequately explored at all, and the Russian monarchist group and the box of Chinese secrets were similarly left dangling. In short, very few of the ends had been tied up satisfactorily.

Ah, but, this is the first of a trilogy of novels. Perhaps these threads (why 'Farngold') will be  picked up in the next book. Maybe, but I'm not sure if I can be bothered to read it.

August 2014; 525 pages


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