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Not Entirely Faultless
Fault Line - Robert Goddard
Member Name: jo1976
Fault Line - Robert Goddard
Date: 05/11/12, updated on 05/12/13 (51 review reads)
Advantages: Easy to read, well paced, plausible
Disadvantages: Lacked suspense and tension
This is the first book that I've read by Robert Goddard - a fairly prolific writer of over twenty bestselling thrillers, with probably the most well known being 'Sight Unseen.' 'Fault Line' was published in 2012.
The story begins with a sixty year old Jonathan Kellerman approaching retirement. He finds himself being asked, or more accurately told, to undertake one last task before being allowed to leave the multinational company he has worked for since his student days. The task itself - locating missing company records from the 1950s and 1960s- didn't particularly arouse my interest but it is hinted that there is some mystery here that Kellerman is implicated in.
The story jumps backwards to 1968, when a teenage Jonathan is just starting adult life and begins a temporary part time job before starting university. Jonathan soon meets various members of the 'Wren family' including the rather manipulative and mysterious fifteen year old, Oliver Foster and his beautiful older sister, Vivien, along with their step-father, Greville Lashley, who also appears to take Jonathan into his confidence where family and business matters are concerned.
Jonathan finds himself getting involved in Oliver's search for the truth about the events surrounding his father's death. This and his budding relationship with Vivien lead to Jonathan becoming embroiled with the complex Wren family in ways that he had never anticipated. The consequences of his actions and discoveries mean that Jonathan establish a connection to the Wren family that ensures he will become inextricably linked with them, even decades after subsequent events took place.
As this is the first Robert Goddard book that I'd read, I wasn't too sure what to expect. I found the writing style to be engaging and accessible and, even with the story set over several decades with some chopping and changing between settings, I was able to follow the story easily and keep track of who was who.
My favourite character, during the first part of the story, has to be the obsessive and mysterious young Oliver Foster who sets out to use Jonathan to meet his own needs, whilst showing considerable intelligence and perceptiveness. I was particularly intrigued when it was revealed that Oliver had actually been hidden in the boot of his father's car as a child, only to become trapped in there when his Dad drove off and killed himself. This early experience does help to explain his subsequent obsession with his father's death and his determination to expose any wrongdoing that he uncovers. I do think the author missed a great opportunity to grab my attention from the outset with this episode, as the whole incident is only very briefly referred to, almost in passing, as a way of explaining Oliver's behaviour. I think the suicide, and Oliver's survival, would have made a really thrilling prologue to the story and would have gripped my attention from the start. As it was, this was more of a steady, evenly paced read than I had anticipated.
That is not to say that this isn't an action packed story - the death count is surprisingly high, without becoming too unrealistic or bloodthirsty. There is a wide variety of crimes and incidents, including kidnapping, blackmail, murder, theft, adultery and suicide, so there is plenty to keep track of, especially as the action covers a period of over forty years. Despite the time period and the number of characters involved, as well as changes of setting including places as diverse as Cornwall and the Italian city of Capri, I never felt confused by what was going on and could always keep track of the story and the various twists and turns. The chapters do move about the decades but it also made explicitly clear when and where the action takes place, helping to avoid confusion.
One of the weaknesses of the story is that it is recounted in the first person through Jonathan's perspective. I feel that certain episodes and incidents would have been more effectively explained if the author had utilised the voice of other characters, for instance. Despite the twists and turns within the plot, this could have been possible by including letters from other characters, for example. I would imagine that letters written by characters such as Oliver or his quietly assertive step-father, Greville Lashley, would have given the story an extra dimension and, potentially, added some much needed suspense and tension.
Part of the reason for the absence of suspense may be that it was clear that Jonathan survived into old age, with the story beginning with Jonathan as an old man. At no point did I experience that sense of anxiety or uncertainty over whether Jonathan would survive or whether the repercussions of his actions and complicity in certain events would be his ultimate undoing.
There were a number of twists and turns and lots of incidents that I had not anticipated by any means but the ultimate outcome seemed a little too obvious to me, which was a little disappointing. I also felt that the plot line to recover the missing records, setting in motion the whole uncovering of events that had happened decades earlier, seemed a little unrealistic. (Surely the incriminating records would just have been destroyed rather than hidden away.) If the story itself had been more gripping, this kind of minor detail wouldn't have bothered me at all but, as it wasn't, I would have preferred a more logical reason for Jonathan to go delving into the company and family history.
This is a well-written, entertaining and plausible novel but, somehow, it seemed to lack the sense of suspense, tension and anxiety that, to me, is the essence of a good thriller. Tellingly, after finishing this I didn't experience that sense of loss that usually follows a really gripping thriller, when I find myself racing through the last few pages and then wish I'd been able to restrain myself once I've finished! Here, the conclusion was neatly rounded up with no ambiguities or frustrating unanswered questions but I still felt that there was something missing from the story as a whole.
I did enjoy reading this but it doesn't make me want to rush out and read more of Goddard's work so I feel that a three star rating is probably a fair reflection of the book and its impact on me.
Summary: A good thriller but not a great one