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Having read a variety of novels over the last few weeks, this week I fancied something I considered safe. I wanted something I knew I would enjoy, a style I was familiar with, something that would make me think and had depth about it. That is why I selected this novel by Robert Goddard.
==About the author:==
Robert Goddard was born in England in 1954. Before he turned his talents to writing full time he was an educational administrator. Since then he has become a very popular and successful writer, dealing in the majority of cases in suspense thrillers. The novel I am reviewing was published originally in 1996.
==Synopsis of the book:==
Harry Barnett hasn't much going for him. He is in his early 50's and although officially still married, they only married so his bride could stay in this country, now she lives with someone else hundreds of miles away. His home is a bedsit and his job is a part time one at the local garage, his only real pleasure is alcohol, which over the past few years he had become more dependant on.
However one day his boss at the petrol station tells him he had a call from a woman telling him his son was in a Coma at the National Neurological Hospital. This is news to Harry as he was not aware that he even had one, so despite limited information he decides to see who has made a mistake. At the Hospital in room E318 as advised he sees a man David Venning 33 lying unconscious. He remembers back almost 34 years ago a brief affair he had with a married lady who soon after moved out of the area.
Harry starts to believe this is his son especially as his mother admits finally tells him the truth and that she told David Harry was his father after her first husband died six years before. Harry is keen to learn as much as he can about his son, this brilliant Mathematician who a few weeks before seemingly attempted suicide and now is only breathing with the aid of a ventilator. He decides he must try and find out about why he would do such a thing and this will leads him in trouble and grave danger.
==My thoughts on the novel:==
My confidence that this would be a gripping, tense but enjoyable read was completely justified. I thought this was an excellent piece of fiction and one I am very glad I read. Although I was confused most of the way through, there was something familiar within the story. At times I wondered if I had read it before, but it wasn't that at all it was the fact this book forms part of a series featuring Harry Barnett as the lead character. Although there are currently only three in the series I had already read the third when I picked up this the second one. It explained why I felt so at home with not only Harry but a few of the other characters within the story.
In total I have read six novels by Robert Goddard and I have never failed to be impressed by his work. In this one I think it was the unusual and unexpected twists and turns he employed that had me dazzled. This author has a great mind and is full of surprises and even if you think you know what's coming he still impresses with a different slant or idea that you never saw coming. His work is quite often likened to Tom Bradby and Peter James, but for me he is better than these because his stories of so engrossing.
This was another good find for me at a Car Boot sale and for just 40p I picked up a gem. Although the title never really appealed it was the summary of the story on the back cover that persuaded me to buy it. At three good paragraphs long it was a far size but it was the quality of it that took my breath away. Immediately I was interested in the concepts and frankly I couldn't wait to get home and start reading it. Plus I liked the two quotes praising this story by two national papers.
Admittedly when I started reading I think the author should have had the brief first chapter as his prologue. As it told the reader about Harry's affair with a married lady 34 years before. You realised as soon as you read it it must have significance and by turning it into a proper prologue with a little more depth I think would have given it exactly that.
That however did not hook me, it what followed it that totally had me intrigued. When Harry discovers he has a son he knew nothing about and he was in a very bad way. I found Harry's thoughts, emotions and sense of bewilderment easy to understand and relate to. As a result I felt a certain kinship to him and I really wanted him to find the whole truth about his son and his unusual life.
The more of the story I read, the more I became involved in it. It was so unusual and nothing was quite as it seemed, as danger, excitement and new experiences were round every corner. And while I expected some thrills and spills I was impressed by the depth and clearly the thought that had gone into the story so that only towards the conclusion did the truth become more apparent.
I really enjoy thought provoking stories that are fast moving and with this story I definitely got both. Yes you could just read the story and follow the action, but for me what was happening posed so many questions, which were addressed during the story and ultimately everything made perfect sense. With always enough happening within the story to make you wonder about connections and while some were obvious some took some thinking about and even needed explaining.
The conclusion to the story was again unexpected and because of what had happened previously I had no idea what kind of an ending to expect. I so dislike predictable ending and this was never predictable for me. Again an epilogue would have been a good way to round it all of but at least you got a feel for what happened next.
Harry Barnett was clearly the lead character in this story and one I found easy to like and respect. He was not your normal hero at all; he was an unsuccessful man in most ways with something of a drink problem. I think these factors are ones that appealed to me because although he was in no way unusual his values are ones most people would like and admire. I think when describing both him and his thoughts the author had a very good insight into his character and this really came through in his writing. To my way of thinking I think I could relate to him well because at the back of my mind was the thought there but for the grace of god go many of us.
Harry was supported by an array of characters that mainly flitted into the story when required. Most where interesting and well thought out, although I did wonder what Donna was on!! Some like Chipchase I would have liked to have more of a role as he certainly had enough personality and mystery about him for me to want to know far more about him and his life.
All the way through the story the author very cleverly used mystery and suspense, so that even when the answer appeared to reveal itself it was never the answer either to the mystery or what you quite expected. And with sinister developments in the story it was always difficult to know whom you could trust and who had a different agenda to the one they were acting out.
I think the only feature the story really lacked was humour, but then you don't really read a suspense thriller for this. I just thought given Harry's personality he would have a dry sarcastic view of the world. And while this was by my standards quite a long read at 410 pages, it certainly didn't feel like a long book and its length was just about right to tell a first class story.
For me this was an enjoyable book. And as such one I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a thoughtful, unusual and gripping story. I am very glad I read it and now I must try and read the only one I haven't in the series the first book. The author in this book had an excellent idea and he cleverly kept a lot of the truth from both the reader and Harry, so that the answers had to be found. With great use of both mystery and suspense I always felt unsure of the eventual outcome.
Price £5.99 New paperback at Amazon
Publisher: Corgi Books
About the author: www.robertgoddard.com
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
©CPTDANIELS June 2011.