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Bettie's Books

A Stuga On the Cusp of the Orust Riviera, tucked away next to a hobbit hole in the woods.

Days without Number by Robert Goddard

Days without Number - Robert Goddard

bookshelves: tbr-busting-2012, winter-20112012, mystery-thriller, britain-england, cornwall, published-2003, fraudio, edinburgh, treasure, zoology, mental-health, venice, britain-scotland, historical-fiction, italy, eye-scorcher

Read from February 21 to 23, 2012


Read by................... Gordon Griffin
Abr/Unabr................ Unabridged
Genre...................... Fiction - Mystery
Source.................... CD
Total Runtime.......... 13 Hrs 3 Mins

Synopsis (Kirkus UK): Nick Paleologus is summoned to the unyielding bosom of his family to help resolve a dispute which threatens to set his brothers and sisters against their aged and irascible father. Michael Paleologus, retired archeologist and supposed descendent of the last Emperors of Byzantium, lives alone at Trennor, a remote and rambling house on the Cornish bank of the Tamar. A ridiculously generous offer has been made for the house, but he refuses to sell despite the urgings of his children, for whom the proceeds would solve a variety of problems. Nick accomplished little in the role of mediator, but the stalemate is soon tragically broken. Only then do Nick and his siblings discover why their father was bound at all costs to reject the offer and what may really be the motives of the prospective buyer. Their increasingly desperate efforts to conceal the truth drag them into a deadly conflict with an unseen and unknown enemy, who seems as determined to force them into a confrontation with their family's past as he is to conceal his own identity. Late in the day, perhaps too late, Nick realizes that the only way to escape from the trap their persecutor has set for them is to hunt him down, wherever - and whoever - he may be. But the hunt involves excavating a terrible secret from their father's archeological career.
This is Robert Goddard's 15th novel since his debut, Past Caring, in 1986, and it's a well-paced thriller, full of contradictory characters who implore Nick's (and our) trust, but who may yet be plotting against him. This ambiguity allows Goddard to keep his readers off-balance all the way through, desperate to learn the truth about these people. Nick is probably the most sympathetic of the characters, but even he has his flaws and elements of his past he would rather forget. These grey areas - Nick's breakdown as a teenager, his increasing dependence on alcohol as the story unravels, sleeping with the 'enemy' - give the individuals depth and helps us to identify with them, good and bad. Goddard moves the story from Cornwall, to Scotland, to Italy, opening it out but maintaining a feeling of claustrophobia that locks the protagonists into a chain of events from which they seem unable to escape. The object of desire, with its roots in religion and the ancient past, provides an extra exotic touch and adds to a general air of powerlessness for these characters. An absorbing, contemporary thriller with a hint of mysticism.

Goddard does it again by introducing us to a group of people where each individual is either a dodgy narrator, well-meaning truth manipulator, outright liar or complete sociopath. And somewhere in that mix there is also a psychopath.

There is brooding paranoia here that leaps of the page and makes us readers feel worried as to the outcome. I love the big cat thing going on in the background. Growing up in Surrey there was always talk between privet-hedge gossiping neighbours of black feline half-sightings roaming between the Common and over the hill into Ashtead woods; this was fueled and fanned by conspiracy theory that Chessington had not let it be known that they lost a specimen from the zoo.

Take nothing except primary sources


5* - Past Caring (1986)
5* - In Pale Battalions (1988)
3* - Into The Blue (Harry Barnett #1) [1990]
4* - Take No Farewell (1991)
3* - Hand in Glove (1992)
2* - Closed Circle (1993)
2.5* - Borrowed Time (1995)
4* - Caught in the Light (1998)
4* - Set In Stone (1999)
3* - Days Without Number (2003)
3* - Play To The End (2004)
1.5* - Name to a Face (2007)
1* - Found Wanting (2008)