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I have to say my boss is a very kind chap. I'm sure this is something that is not often said about them, but in my case it is undoubtedly true. We share an interest in books, admittedly we like different styles but last week he very kindly gave me his pack of ten Robert Goddard novels that he had read and enjoyed. I was grateful and although I had already read four I planned to make a start on the others. I just hope this isn't his subtle way of telling me there are no pay rises again this year.
==About the author:==
Robert Goddard was born in Hampshire in 1954. Prior to becoming a writer he worked in Devon as an educational administrator. Since his first novel published in 1986 he has written 22 additional stories. He specialises in suspense thrillers or mysteries. Goddard was nominated for Edgar Award for Best Novel in 1999 for ' Beyond Recall'. I would describe his books to be similar to either Peter Robinson or Mark Billingham. The book I am about to review was first written and published in 1993.
==Synopsis of the book:==
Guy Horton and Max Wingate are fairly small time con men. These two best friends have been swindling people since the end of the First World War. Now the year is 1931 and these two well educated and charming men are on the run. They have fled America so as not to be able to stand trial in a financial scandal. Which is how they end up on on the luxurious transatlantic liner 'The Express of Britain' heading back to England for the first time in years.
Very soon Guy meets and is invited to Cocktails with a very wealthy first class passenger Miss Charnswood who is travelling with her beautiful daughter Diana. As the invitation is for Guy and his friend he takes along Max unsurprisingly. Both men decide that one of them should try and gain the confidence of Diana so that they can as they have done in the past make money from the rich lady. And as Max gets to the party before Guy he soon starts to use all his charm and charisma on the unsuspecting lady and before long they become inseparable on the journey home.
Guy is impressed by Max's ability to woo this beautiful lady and very soon Max is boasting that they may well get a big pay day from this operation. As they both know her father the highly successful businessman Fabian Charnwood will not allow his only daughter to marry someone of their repute. But have these two crooks finally met their match? As Diana is an exquisite women and even Guy is feeling jealous of Guy's success. Can love be more powerful than money?
==My thoughts on this novel:==
I thought this was a very good, well thought out suspense thriller. It was certainly one I enjoyed as it was quite different from the pieces of fiction I have read lately. In total I have probably read six stories before this one from Robert Goddard so I have a good idea what to expect when I picked up this book. What I specifically like about his books is they are all so different from each other and for each story you have a completely new cast of characters in a totally new setting and time space. I certainly like his good descriptive writing and his stories always make me think about what I am reading as I try and work out the solution or even what will happen next.
That said I did have doubts about this particular novel when I first looked at the summary on the back of the book. While I don't mind a period piece because I always feel I will learn more about the period being written about. I was concerned when the author talked about these two tricksters return home to England who would try and seduce this rich young lady. I didn't think this would appeal to me as I cannot stand con men and find it very difficult to like or even empathise with them. So it was with a certain amount of trepidation I started to read the story.
I was initially surprised that the book did not start with a prologue just a page of compliments about Robert Goddard's work in general. This is a pet hate of mine as how would a compliment about his work relate to the book I am about to read. Simple it doesn't and from my experiences even great authors have bad days and produce work that is not as good as their other ones. I would much rather see a few less quotes from these publications and focus on the story in question.
Regardless of this I found quite quickly I was involved and more interested in the story. I liked the concept of Guy and Max being invited to this Cocktail party hosted by these wealthy ladies. And while I still struggled to like these characters I still wanted to know more about their target as I was sure their swindle would not be as easy and simple as they planned it to be. Although I did enjoy Guy's nose being a little out of joint as Max was having all the fun courting the beautiful and single Diana Charnwood.
It was only when they disembarked the ship that my real interest in the story developed. That was because other factors started to be released into the equation. Such as Max falling in love with the lady and her father's getting involved with Guy to try and bring a swift conclusion to this association. I enjoyed the way round every corner the author was developing new ideas that I for one had not even considered.
This is what continued to happen in an amazing story. I had no concept of what the main idea was behind the story. I will not say to much about it but it was certainly an amazing idea and while I did find it a little hard to believe it was certainly different. And it made me question what I knew or thought I knew to be the truth. It was just so interesting how these two Con men had walked into something that was far bigger than the scam they where trying to pull off.
It was a real suspense mystery as all the way through you did not know who you could trust and believe. I found as a result I was questioning all the characters motives in a world where the truth seemed quite to be a rare commodity. The further I read into the story the more engrossed I became and like Guy I had no idea what would happen at the end of the story and where the characters within in it would end up.
The story pace was always good, although I did find it annoying how long it took to get anyway, mind you this was 1931. Although this added realism to the story and I thought the author really captured the mood of the time well in all his writings. I really wondered how this excellent story could or would finish. All I can say is I think the author did it justice, it was an really well thought out conclusion and one that was in keeping to the rest of the story. Even how the author dealt with the leading characters seemed to me while in some ways disappointing realistic and in keeping with their personalities.
One of the real beauties about this story was the characters within it. Max is the real star of the book and the story is written basically from his view point. He initially is a man I did not like but as the story developed his personality grew on me. He didn't seem quite the rogue I originally had him down as and certainly the people he was dealing with where far bigger than he could ever be. It did however worry me how much his character changed but it was refreshing that given a certain set of circumstances it could change positively.
While several of the characters you could immediately see they where not to be trusted or plain bad. It was Diana's character that appealed to me, not just because she was beautiful but she was so full of mystery. Although I did find it rather odd that such a lady did not have many young eligible bachelors beating a path to her door. I felt rarely I understood her but she intrigued me and I was always fascinated what would become of her at the end of the story.
I found I read this book in just less than a week and felt really disappointed when it was over as I knew I would struggle to find another in the short term that I would enjoy as much. Yes in some ways the big mystery was hard to believe and to find credible but it was so well told as to make it all believable. I thought the length of the story was just right to tell a deep well thought out and always interesting story. It was well broken up with 18 chapters and to my delight an epilogue. This for me was vital as a few questions in my mind remained and I wanted to know what happened next to a few key characters.
This story really surprised and impressed me. I would certainly recommend it as a very good, well written piece of fiction. And while the main mystery in the story was hard to initially believe I found because it was so well explained it did make me wonder if it was really possible. It was a well thought out suspense story which had me enthralled all the way through. It was the type of story that had lots of twists in it and I for one never had any idea what would happen next to the main characters.
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPTDANIELS June 2012.