Robert Goddard has had his ups and downs in recent years, and it might have seemed that his touch had lost its magic. His most recent three novels before Fault Line were, in my opinion, poor, okay and indifferent, in that order. Fortunately, this shallow and fallow period seems to be over.
The main thing in favour of Fault Line is that the leading character doesn't do anything stupid: normally these days in a Goddard book one is used to the hero saying "yes" when he should say "no" in chapter one, leading to three hundred pages of implausibility. Not this time.
Told in flashback, we learn how our hero, from his youth in St. Austell, Cornwall (this reader's least favourite town in England) finds himself drawn into the ins and outs of a wealthy family because a) he fancies the daughter and b) he tries to do the right thing. The results are unpredictable, varying from disastrous to very disastrous. This is perhaps the most corpse-strewn of Goddard's novels, with barely any character left standing at the final curtain (to be fair, a few die of old age, but not that many). It's not a gore-fest, however, and it was only after reading that one realised quite how many of the cast list had copped it!
Spanning forty-years or more, no matter where the story goes (Capri, USA, with fascists, opera singers, the China Clay industry and student riots all in the mix) it all comes back to one incident years before in St. Austell. "Old sins have long shadows", as Agatha Christie was fond of quoting. Well, they certainly do with Robert Goddard. Back on form. With a vengance. Literally.