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Painting The Darkness [Paperback]

Robert Goddard
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 May 1990

On a mild autumn afternoon in 1882, William Trenchard sits smoking his pipe in the garden of his comfortable family home. When the creak of the garden gate heralds the arrival of an unexpected stranger, he is puzzled but not alarmed. He cannot know the destruction this man will wreak on all he holds most dear...

The stranger announces himself ast James Norton, but claims he is in reality Sir James Davenall, the man to whom Trenchard's wife Constance had been engaged, and who had committed suicide eleven years ago. Sir Hugo, James's younger brother, and his mother, Lady Catherine, refuse to recognise Norton and force Trenchard - who fears the loss of his wife's affections - into an uneasy alliance against him. But Trenchard must plumb the depths of his own despair before the dark secrets of the Davenall family can finally, shockingly, be revealed...

Product details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Corgi; New edition edition (25 May 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552132829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552132824
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 10.6 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 389,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Goddard was born in Hampshire. He read History at Cambridge and worked as an educational administrator in Devon before becoming a full-time novelist. He is the author of many bestselling novels, including Into the Blue which won the first WH Smith Thumping Good Read Award and was dramatized for TV in 1997, starring John Thaw.

Product Description


"It explodes into action so that the reader is hooked by the time he reaches the third page...he is a superb storyteller" (Sunday Independent)

"It has all the ingredients of a first-class melodrama...engaging and satisfying" (The Times)

"I was hooked by this atmospheric historical mystery'" (Sarah Broadhurst Today)

Book Description

The brain-teasing new thriller from the 'master of the clever twist'

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Victorian melodrama of a thriller 2 Oct 2005
Robert Goddard's take on the Martin Guerre theme of the ghost of the past returning to try to re-establish his identity, and be haunted by the present. It is the late Victorian era and we find a sophisticated English gentleman resurrecting himself from a supposed grave to become embroiled in emotional, legal, and violent contests as he endeavours to re-establish his name, claim the title and riches which are his due, and win back the woman he loved ... now married to another.
Goddard has built a reputation on his ability to weave mysteries and thrillers out of the passage of time - his stories reach back into the histories of his characters, explore the histories of nations, and create a depth and sophistication in storytelling which few can emulate. In 'Painting the Darkness', allusions to real events and the inclusion of real historical figures serve only to throw into relief the lack of verifiable history which James Norton can offer to prove his identity, and the refusal of his family and world to accept as valid the history he does provide.
This is a fairly lengthy novel, nearly 600 pages, and the first chapter is just a little slow. Goddard simulates the language of upper class, Victorian England - restrained, formal, refined; as you get into its rhythm and style, you become absorbed in the story, but those first few pages take you through a learning curve in the metre and formality of the language, and can be a little off-putting. Persevere, for this is a finely crafted tale, with Goddard's usual menu of red herrings, spiced and sauced, and served with many a twist.
Goddard is a very fine writer and an outstanding storyteller. 'Painting the Darkness' is no breakneck thriller - it moves at elegant pace, subtle as the swish of satin, graceful as a ballgown's passage across the floor, with just the hint of a well-turned ankle. Highly entertaining, with a convincing sense of place and time, it will keep you guessing to the end.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars extraordinary 22 April 2006
By Didier TOP 500 REVIEWER
What a superb storyteller Robert Goddard is! From the very first pages the book grips you, and you find yourself wanting to know ever more...

The story doesn't move at breakneck speed, but Goddard times his story expertly, and you cannot help but find yourself wondering whether Norton is who he claims to be. Believe you me, Goddard will keep you guessing until the very end.

I should mention the prose too: the dialogues are absolutely first-rate, and the way Goddard can describe people and places, and conjure up an atmosphere is quite uncanny.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent escapism 8 April 2012
The story opens as William Trenchard relaxes in the apparent idyll of settled domesticity. Then a stranger appears, claiming to be the man to whom his wife was previously engaged - an affair of the heart, brought to a close by the suicide of the young man. The stranger wants to reclaim his place in his family and in society - but is he who he says he is?

This is a long book - 600 pages - and it is action packed. Set in the late 1800s with a fair share of villainy and skulduggery, it definitely merits the description 'atmospheric historical mystery'. I got the same enjoyment from it as I got from Sarah Waters Fingersmith. Sometimes, it seems to me that books of this length and readability are quite thin on the ground - and I always feel happy to have unearthed another one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and tightly written drama. 1 July 2013
Like all of Robert Goddard's stories, this displays a meticulous eye for historical and geographical detail. However, be aware that as a reader this demands a high level of alertness and concentration. The narrative constantly flits (without warning or preamble) between between 1882 and earlier points in time. The story takes in Ireland, Switzerland and the USA too, as well as England. I found myself constantly looking at the family tree, even towards the end of the novel when I should have been familiar with the characters. As another reviewer has pointed out, it is also difficult to identify a central character - everyone seems flawed in some way.
That said, this is a clever, intelligent and engrossing story, worthy of Wilkie Collins and Daphne Du Maurier, with the usual twists that we have come to expect form Goddard. It would be interesting to see this filmed or dramatized for TV, but sadly, it would probably be too deep and slow moving for modern TV companies.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cracking read 30 Oct 2001
An excellent, atmospheric tale. It has all the layers, twists and turns that make Mr Goddard so readable. I thoroughly recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too wordy! 7 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I've read a number of Robert Goddard's books and enjoyed them, but I didn't finish this one. It droned on a bit and frankly I got bored and moved on.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars apa 26 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A cracking good read as expected from
Robert Goddard. ALWAYS a good storyteller that provides a different plot each time
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 15 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Brilliant like all his other books. With his accurate and deep research and his creation of period atmosphere, Robert Goddard never disappoints
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars ... that I read by Robert Goddard seems to be better than the previous...
Every book that I read by Robert Goddard seems to be better than the previous one and that takes some beating, enjoyed it immensely .
Published 10 days ago by Dancer.
5.0 out of 5 stars Another memorable book
Like all Robert Goddard novels, it is a real page-turner, written well with a love of language.
Published 13 days ago by Diane Atkinson
3.0 out of 5 stars Found this book difficult to read due to the style ...
Found this book difficult to read due to the style of writing.
Published 15 days ago by AnnB
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, but...
This otherwise excellent book was spoiled for me by one unfortunate error. It would not be fair were I to give away any of the plot but one incident concerns a brake cable on a... Read more
Published 1 month ago by amazing chester
4.0 out of 5 stars A deeply moving and intense novel
I'm a big fan of Robert Goddard and have been more than satisfied with most of the dozen or so books of his that I have read. Read more
Published 3 months ago by birdistheword
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not Goddard's best
Another historical mystery epic from a master of the genre. After reading 4 of his books, I'm pretty sure that Goddard is more comfortable writing of bygone times; like many... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Ruju
5.0 out of 5 stars Another RG winner
I have yet to find a Robert Goddard book that like. This one is no exception - I loved it.
Published 3 months ago by Tony Cowburn
4.0 out of 5 stars great read
Robert Goddard does not disappoint. Another great read with many twist and turns that keep you entertained and guessing until the end of the book.
Published 5 months ago by Barbara Burton
3.0 out of 5 stars Too Much Treacle
RG has a terrific tale to tell but he overdoes it and the book could be cut by a quarter of its length and be none the worse for it. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mike Collins
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Goddard
Another classic story from Robert Goddard, the usual twists and turns of plot kept me enthralled right to the end!
Published 7 months ago by S A McGregor
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