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Walk This Line
Fault Line - Robert Goddard
Member Name: IainWear
Fault Line - Robert Goddard
Advantages: Well written and layered suspense
Disadvantages: A second reading wouldn't have as much about it
I always like discovering the work of a new author, regardless of how I come across them. When the name of Robert Goddard entered my consciousness, I was happy to give him a try, especially armed as I was with the double benefit of Waterstone's Buy One Get One Half Price offer and a gift card from a recent birthday. Whilst Robert Goddard may be new to me, he certainly isn't new to publishing, as "Fault Line" is his 23rd novel.
The story opens in 2010 when Jonathan Kellaway, about to retire from his job at International Kaolins, is tasked with one final job by the long serving head of the company, Greville Lashley. Lashley has asked for a history of the company to be written, but the writer has run into a dead end with some important pieces of company files from the 1960s having been replaced with blank paper. As one of the few people who were with the companies that eventually became International Kaolins at that time, it seems that he may have enough history and sufficient contacts with the company to help out.
The 1960s were not a good time for Wren & Company. The company was struggling and about to be merged into Cornish China Clays. Kenneth Foster, who was running the company, had apparently committed suicide several years before and in 1968, having searched for the mystery behind the death, his son Oliver seemingly did the same. Into this set of circumstances, Jonathan Kellway come for a summer job before going away to University, planning never to return to St. Austell properly again, but being caught up in the mystery partly due his desire for Oliver's sister Vivien and partly at the insistence of Greville Lashley.
The way Goddard presents the story was excellently done. He unveiled the mystery piece by piece as events took their course, as naturally as would have occurred if Jonathan had been finding things out for himself. Secrets are being kept from Jonathan, as well as between many of the other characters in the novel, and Goddard's writing is good enough that you feel as if you're finding them out along with him. There is little chance of a reader being able to rush ahead and predict what is likely to happen, as every time a certain point is reached, something happens to throw you a little off track and you have no choice but to follow on.
Such is the quality of Goddard's writing that you feel you have to follow. Events in the book may not proceed at as rapid a pace as in some books, but there is always a sense that something is coming. It's not the pace of the novel itself, but the anticipation of what there is to come that makes "Fault Line" such an irresistible read. You don't know whether the next events will be something affecting the characters, or something about the company as a whole, you just know that it's coming. With everything that happened, I kept reading to see what was going to happen next.
What helps is that the main characters here are very believable. Jonathan starts with the same attitude towards St. Austell as I had towards my home village at his age and with many of the same motivations for life. The family members all react to the deaths and to some events in a way that was entirely believable and, although there were a couple of events that perhaps weren't entirely in keeping with what an average person may achieve, Goddard never needed to resort to taking things off in strange directions of using deus ex machina to help the characters along. It was all very natural and that helped make "Fault Line" an enjoyable read.
The book in many places, focussing on characters and a family running a business and much of the intrigue going on behind it, reminded me a little of Sidney Sheldon's "Master of the Game", although without the glitz and glamour of Sheldon's writing. In many ways, this was a grittier, far more realistic version of that story. Whilst I enjoyed the Sheldon book, it didn't really connect with me, being set so far away and with events transpiring that I had little feeling for. In Goddard's book, things are set a lot closer to home and events are far more gentle and less sensational and the book felt like a friend from around the corner, not a long lost relative from many thousands of miles away.
The one down side to the book is that, because of the way the story is exposed layer by layer, it's not a book you could read more than once. After you've reached the end with all the secrets it holds exposed, they would not be a surprise and the suspense would not be there the second time around, although you would still be left with a very well written and enjoyable novel. For this reason, this is a book better off borrowed than purchased, although it can be found for as little as a penny plus postage from the Amazon Marketplace or for £2-£3 including postage on eBay. I ended up paying the equivalent of £4 and don't regret it, especially as I suspect that, if this is typical of the quality of Robert Goddard's writing, I'll be buying or borrowing many more.
Summary: Goddard's 23rd thriller suggests he's not running out of steam yet