Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Ways of the World: Robert Goddard

Paris of 1919 is full of spies and intrigue. Following World War I, a peace treaty is being negotiated, and Sir Henry Maxted is present as an adviser to the British deputation. While there he falls off a building to his death; the authorities and the politicians are anxious to call his death accidental, and the proximity to a possible mistress in Paris makes the event embarrassing to his family.

Sir Henry's two sons go to Paris to claim the body. The elder brother, now Sir Ashley, wants to accept things at face value and get back home. James “Max” Maxted, recently released from his assignment as a pilot in the  Royal Flying Corps, has a feeling that the truth is being covered up and feels a duty to follow up on his intuition.  He and his friend, mechanic Sam Twentyman, had planned to run an air field back in the UK but he feels he must put those plans on hold.

The remainder of the book follows Max's adventures in Paris as he looks into his father's involvement in the peace talks and the machinations and double-dealing going on among representatives of various nations. Sam Twentyman joins him in Paris and gets a job as a mechanic for the British delegation to help out behind the scenes.



The plot seemed to wander at times and there were a lot of names and nationalities to keep track. Usually this doesn't bother me, but some of the relationships never became clear to me. At times, the story seemed too melodramatic. On the other hand, I like that Max was not willing to toe the family line and hide the true facts of his father's death (which will not be clear without some digging into the facts). I liked the division in the family, with the elder brother's wife, Lydia, trying to influence events in her favor and Max's mother rooting for him.

The book has a definite cliffhanger ending. Since the book has been marketed as the first part of a trilogy, that did not surprise me. In this case, although the ending was abrupt, it was the ending I expected and it did not bother me. I feel like I have enough closure with this book that I could read on to the next book or not, and the reading experience would still be satisfactory. Other readers have complained strongly about this aspect of the story, so I feel I should include a warning.

In summary, I found this to be a light, entertaining espionage story, fine if you don't mind family drama and a bit of romance included. Of course I enjoyed the setting in time and place and the connection to World War I. This type of historical mystery is a favorite type of read for me. This is the first book by Robert Goddard I have read. I expect to follow up on book 2 in the trilogy eventually, and I have three other books by this author to read.

As far as I can tell, only this first book in the trilogy has been published in the US; the second and third books have been published in the UK.

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Publisher:   Mysterious Press, 2015 (orig. pub. 2013)
Length:      416 pages
Format:      e-book
Series:       James Maxted, #1
Setting:      Paris, France (primarily)
Genre:        Thriller, Espionage
Source:      Provided by the publisher for review via NetGalley

18 comments:

  1. Well, that's disturbing. They really have to bring them out here!

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    1. I was assuming that they would publish the two other books in the trilogy also, Patti, but I cannot actually find anywhere that says the publishers have plans for that.

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  2. TracyK: As I read the massive non-fiction book, Paris 1919 by Margaret McMillan, I should read this book. It sounds good.

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    1. I looked up that book, Bill, and it looks very interesting. But like you said, massive. Yes, I think this book would be interesting to you, after reading that one.

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  3. This sounds like a good read, Tracy. I know what you mean about having to keep track of a lot of plot threads and characters, but the underlying premise sounds interesting. And...well...it's Paris. :-)

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    1. From the reviews I read of the 2nd and 3rd books, this trilogy had it fans, so I hope to continue the series someday and I think the 2nd book will have a different focus. Could be interesting.

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  4. I used to read all the Robert Goddard books, but stopped a while back. Maybe I should pick them up again...

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    1. Moira, I think you should pick them up again and review them so I will know what you think of newer ones. Selfish of me, I know. The ones I have are Name to a Face, Hand in Glove, and Long Time Coming.

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    2. I've definitely read Hand in Glove, not sure about the others. I think his titles are very non-descriptive, I never know which is which. I met him once at a launch part, and raised the subject of titles, ready to tell him what I thought. But he told me how he agonized over them, how choosing them was so important, how he was so careful to get the right title.... I didn't dare tell him it hadn't worked with me!

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    3. I agree, from my point of view his titles don't tell you much at all, and they are not memorable. Very interesting about his take on the titles. I would get tongue tied talking to any author, I think.

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  5. I thought - didn't you read one from him a week or two ago, but that's me confusing Barnard and Goddard again. Probably not one I'll seek out, I'm more of a fan of WW2 than WW1, if I'm going to read historical.

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    1. Col, I did mention this book by Goddard on my New (to me) Authors post earlier this month. I prefer World War II more also, but the more I am exposed to books about World War I and the events between the wars, the more I understand the connection.

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  6. I actually have this one. I've always wanted to read this writer but just haven't gotten around to it and not sure when I will. I like the elements of it that you discussed in your review.

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    1. I liked this one, Keishon, but I am thinking I will like some of his other books better. We will see.

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  7. Never really got into this writer (was probably put off by the announcement years ago that he was one of the favourite author of a Tory Prime Minister - I'm fickle like that!)

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    1. That is funny, Sergio. I will see what I think after trying the other books I have. If this book is representative, his writing may be too melodramatic or on the romantic side for me. But they often have historical elements (I think) and I would like that.

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  8. Thanks for the review, Tracy. Just too much on my reading plate to even consider Robert Goddard's fiction for now.

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    1. I do know what you mean, Prashant. I used to be much more ambitious in trying a lot of new (to me) authors, which is why I have so many unread books. Now I am trying not to add so many until I get my TBR piles down.

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