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3.3 out of 5 stars
Name To A Face
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63 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on 29 September 2007
Robert Goddard has written some truly outstanding novels. The best are Past Caring, In Pale Battalions, and Painting the Darkness. I reread those books every couple of years, I've sent numerous copies to friends via Amazon, and I keep 3-4 copies around myself just in case I lose one or loan a copy and at that moment have an urge to read the book again. Goddard's books usually center on the unearthing (sometimes literally) of secrets and events from 20 to 40 years back. He's a master of this genre, with the genre's prototypical example being Du Maurier's Rebecca. The only other master who comes to mind is Ross MacDonald--if you havent't read any of his Lew Archer mysteries and enjoy Goddard's novels, give them a try.

Name to a Face features secrets from 10, 270, 300, and 650 years back. The book starts off in a promising fashion, with the protagonist Tim Harding finding himself in the middle of a swirl of strange events which almost everyone else seems to know more about than he does: this kind of situation is usually a Goddard signature--reminiscent of Kafka's The Trial, but not so ubiquitous. But as Harding learns more, the pace seems to slow rather than to accelerate, unlike in Goddard's best works. The last part of the book almost seems to create more loose ends than to tie them up--it feels as if Goddard has put together parts from different books. I felt myself pausing and saying "What on earth is going on here?". One of the major themes of the early part of the book, if you want a bad and mixed metaphor, turns out to be kind of a red herring in the stargazy pie (popular in Penzance).

So if you enjoy Goddard's novels, this is not bad--but it also is not one of his best works--read the book. If you haven't read any of Goddard's novels, don't start with this, you might not read any of the others. Start with Past Caring, and continue on to Pale Battalions and Painting the Darkness--all three are truly deserving of a 5-star rating.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 2 October 2007
I have to agree with the first reviewer of this book.
It is time to face the fact that perhaps my favourite author's best novels are now some way in the past.
This seems to be a different writer to the author who wrote such splendid literary novels such as 'Painting the Darkness' and 'Take no Farewell'.
Goddard's 19th novel in 21 years is, for me an improvement on last years tired and boring Harry Barnett escapade 'Never Go Back', but it is some way off his finest work.
This novel begins very well, (as did 'Never Go Back')but dips in the middle and does not fully recover, lacking in tension and believability.
Goddard has delivered in the past few years, 'Sight Unseen'in 2005 was in my opinion amoung his best books.
Writing in the third person,his narative ridgidly follows the central character Tim Harding on his ill fated journey to Cornwall to find the truth behind a historical conundrum concerning a ring. The story sadly peters out and the historic significance matters less and less.Because we never see the story from any other point of view, it becomes predictable and not even the odd plot twist or sudden revelation that was once Goddard's hallmark and great strength can hold the readers attention for long.
In his earlier novels Mr Goddard would have made wonderful use of a historical city such as Lincoln. ( A city Goddard visited in 2005 and 06 on book tours).He would have created atmosphere and tension, but in 'Name to a Face' he brushes across the description of the walk up Steep Hill towards the Cathedral in a mere sentence and sets the following scene in a dingy flat when there is one of the greatest Cathedrals in Europe undescribed next door. I know that this is a gripe but the point is this, Robert Goddard's technique has changed from those great early novels.
Please Mr Goddard return to the style of your early novels and thrill us again with a historical novel that twists and turns and keeps us guessing, baffled and hooked to the very last page.
I would happily wait 2 to 3 years for such a book as Robert Goddard's early novels are always as good on the 2nd or even 3rd re read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The origins of an old ring and a familiar "face in the crowd" are just two of the many seemingly unrelated plot points that come together in this latest Robert Goddard offering of avarice, deceit and murder. Once again, the clever Mr. Goddard has produced a work filled with a myriad of unusual twists and turns and melded them into another example of the engrossing narratives that have become his trademark. He has a gift for engaging the reader in the plight of his protagonist to such an extent that his books never require that he stoop to hair-raising chase scenes or dark rooms and storm filled nights to create suspense. Instead he keeps the reader involved with clever bits of misdirection and elegant, intelligent writing.

Name to a Face is my most recent venture into Goddard territory and once again good pacing and an intricately woven plot drew me into this tale of Tim Harding as his travels take him from Monte Carlo to Cornwall to the Scilly Isles and points beyond enmeshing him in situation after situation as he attempts to perform, what on the surface appears to be nothing more than a simple favor for a friend.

The recurring theme of the book is one of individuals on a personal quest.....each seeking one thing but often finding something altogether unexpected and different that alters their perspective as well as the course of their lives. Mr. Goddard metes out these changes in small doses ending each chapter with his protagonist making a new discovery that obliquely turns the story in yet another direction.

As you no doubt have been able to ascertain, I am a die hard Goddard fan. In all fairness to those readers who like things tied up with a plausible explanation let me state that while this book is well executed and an enjoyable reading experience, the story did contain one of two changes of direction that bordered on "convenient" and a "resolution" that some might consider down-right incredible. With that being said, I still give this book a thumbs up. Recommendation: For first time readers of Goddard I heartily recommend PAST CARING or CAUGHT IN THE LIGHT.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 30 June 2008
This is poor from Goddard, I really wanted to stop reading. The plot just seemed to get increasingly implausible; and how the main character gets motivated to chase round after a series of half-baked clues stretches credulity too far.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 9 December 2007
I must admit to being in two minds about this book : if I was a first-time Goddard reader, I suspect I would have described this as being a truly absorbing and refreshing read. But as someone who has read all of his prior novels I also have the sense that he didn't match the standard of his previous works with this one. Do we therefore perhaps have too high expectations of such a wonderful author?

In the end though, I did conclude that this was a good read because the Goddard trademarks were there : the rich writing, the historical backdrops and the multiplicity of twists and turns. (At certain points though, I did feel that the lies and deceptions were just too over the top). If they're your test, you'll probably be happy with this book.

The plot did drag me in early and, as usual, I was able to get through it easily in a couple of long sittings. From that point of view, I must regard it as quite an entertaining read. That said, however, I would also say that it falls shy of his better works so something was definitely missing.

This fence I'm sitting on is not all that comfortable!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 September 2010
I've now read all of Robert Goddard's books over the last few months and love all his work. I'd saved this one till the last, as I'd read the negative comments, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. His writings have absorbed me completely, even through chemotherapy treatments, and I'm only disappointed that there are no more to read yet.

To be able to write such gripping thrillers, with complicated plots, and combining it all with a descriptive overlay that puts you into the scene, is a skill and a gift indeed. Not one of Robert Goddard's has disappointed me in any way.
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on 5 September 2008
I would probably give this one 5 stars if I were making comparison to most other mystery/fiction authors' stories. However, having read all of Goddard's novels I tend to compare each new one to his own earlier ones. This one is very good, but not his best yet. His last two were not all that great, but this one encourages me to think Goddard's writing career is not yet over.

The story details and character relationships get complicated pretty fast. As usual, the plot is meticulously developed with plenty of twists and turns along the way. While the ending comes a little too abruptly after all that has lead up to it, there is no way to guess ahead of time how it will end or how events will bring resolution to lives turned upside down. You just have to keep reading. Historical events are always part and parcel of Goddard's stories, sometimes in the extreme, but not overdone in this one.

If you're a Goddard fan, this is pretty standard fair, and you won't want to miss it. If you're new to Goddard, I would recommend reading a few of his others first. The best of the best are "Caught in the Light", "Set in Stone", "Take no Farewell", "Beyond Recall", and "Dying to Tell". I'm not one of those who feels that Goddard's earliest novels are his best. For my liking, his best ones came in the 1990s with some good ones in the current decade as well.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 19 October 2007
I picked up a copy of Closed Circle a dozen years ago while on holiday in the UK. I became an instant addict to Mr Goddards work. To me (and to a lot of other readers), these books were more than mere thrillers. In each of them he managed to bring history alive, mixing it cleverly with our present times. After Sea Change the quality of his work became inconsistent and Name to a Face is an example of a story that is not very good and not very bad. The historical connections are still there but - contrary to Mr Goddards pre-Sea Change work - not very detailled at all. Instead we have to cope with a protagonist who acts like a nervous dog that is on the scent of something it doesn't understand but does not keep it from running all across Europe.

I agree with the previous reviewers: If you're new to Goddard, get Past Caring, Into the Blue or anything pre-Sea Change for that matter.

Oh and BTW: Contrary to what Mr Goddard tells us and although our government resides there, the Dutch capital is not the Hague. It's Amsterdam.
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on 6 October 2008
It's hard to understand how a novelist can deteriorate as much from his early novels as this. This is an adequate pot-boiler of the kind you might pick up at random from the top 10 in any bookshop. But when compared with Goddard's best books, such as Take No Farewell and Into the Blue, it's almost as though it is written by a different author.
Where is all the period detail, character and emotional tension Goddard used to put into his books? Where is even one decent twist? Hayley Winter, to take just one example, is a cardboard character, who alternately acts out some old-man's fantasy and behaves,absurdly, as the greenest of journalists. The twist was ridiculously obvious virtually from the start. Then there is the sloppy, poor writing, with large tracts of dialogue with insufficient commentary. The couple of mistakes I happened to pick up, such as the East Kent Mercury mistakenly being called the Kentish Mercury, are, I suspect, symptomatic.
None of us expects Robert Goddard to be brilliant every time but it's so sad that all the signs here are that he can't now be bothered at all, whether from having too much money, boredom with writing or some problem in his life.
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on 14 February 2010
Much criticism has been levelled at Robert Goddard's recent efforts. I daresay some of this criticism is deserved. However, most of it is, I believe, ill-founded.
'Name to a Face' is perhaps not Goddard's best, but it is still a consummately crafted thriller that delivers in spades everthing we've come to expect from this talented author. As usual, we're given a middle-aged, male protagonist, this time Tim Harding, a landscape gardener plying his trade in affluent Monaco, who is compelled by a friend to travel to Cornwall to bid on an antique ring. And as you'd expect, Harding is soon drawn into a world strewn with lies and secrets, upon which he is determined to shed light. As time advances, the darker and more lethal this world becomes.
Ultimately, 'Name to a Face' should delight Goddard fans and be more than adequate to attract the uninitiated into further reading. The prose is, as ever, both sumptious and litrary whilst maintaining a heady pace that never sags.
Despite less than favourable reviews, this is a tense and absorbing read that places Goddard at the head of the pack.
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