on 22 July 2012
I've now read all 23 of Robert Goddard's books and enjoyed them all. It's true he's lost his sharp edge since the days of Caught in the Light and Set in Stone, with fewer convoluted plot twists and emotional roller coaster rides. In fact, in Fault Line there don't seem to be any twists at all, and it's all rather predictable - which, as someone who enjoys a good plot twist, leaves me feeling rather short changed (hence only 4 stars). That said, with Goddard's unmistakeable philosophical style and the rather glamorous setting on Capri, it still makes for a highly entertaining page-turner. A word of warning though: if you're searching for Robert Goddard's books under name of author, check carefully you've got the right Robert Goddard; there are two authors with the same name.
on 2 April 2012
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.
on 15 October 2012
I would actually rate this book 3 1/2 stars...
After his previous 3 books, which I found disappointing, Fault Line marks a return to form. Mostly.
I won't offer a synopsis, since that's been given elsewhere. Suffice to say, Fault Line holds all the hallmarks of a classic Robert Goddard novel; deeds of the past casting a dark shadow over the present, an antagonist caught up in an intriguing mystery, seeking to find the truth in events of the past, searching for personal reconciliation; twists and turns in the main plot; intertwining sub-plots.
As with most of Goddard,s previous novels, the main character makes a choice/agreement to something early on in the book which pretty much sets the course for the events that follow, which continue to project their reach into the future.
As other reviewers have mentioned, some of the cast come across as typecast and one-dimensional.
Also, I would have liked to have felt more depth to the main character. The historical backdrop which invariably colours Goddard's novels didn't hook me personally as much as previous novels. The clay mining of Cornwall in the 60's, for me, holds little interest, as opposed to previous novels.
The love scenes come across as a bit contrived.
That said, the book is very readable. I enjoyed it, and found the shifts between past/present perspectives to flow well, keep the story alive, and add the additional dimension.
I've read all of Goddard's novels, and Fault Line far surpasses his previous 3-4 efforts.
My main contention is the ending. I found it to be rushed, and to be honest, slightly unconvincing.
Actually, slightly incomprehensible. I was left feeling many of the tribulations the main character suffered throughout could have been avoided.
But that shouldn't deter anyone from reading this book. The remaining 99% of the book far outweighs any reservations I might otherwise have had to recommend this to anyone.
All in all I found it a very good read. Goddard captures the atmosphere of past and present environments convincingly. I wanted to know the outcome, wanted to know the "secret" behind it all and wanted to know what was to became of the main characters.
I will definitely buy the next Goddard novel, and hope this book really does mark a return to form.
on 30 June 2012
Not only am I a huge Goddard fan, but I also live near St Austell and know many of the locations mentioned and visited in his new mystery. So I was delighted when I heard he was setting his latest work in this area.
'Fault Line' is written in first person, narrated by Jonathan Kellaway, who is set the task of investigating a hole in the records of the china clay mining company he works for. His probing, inevitably, brings a host of mysteries from his past back to life. The story spans several decades, From the late sixties to present day. The historical detail is typically first class; one of Goddard's greatests skills is his ability to bring the past to life.
Although the writing is rich and flowing, there were times, especially during action-based sequences, when the writing seemed laboured. But this is being picky: Goddard really is a classy writer. Of course, prepare to suspend your disbelief. There are elements of the story, including the finale, which stretch the bounds of credulity. But that is the point of fiction, isn't it? If the story strictly stuck within the bounds of realism it would make for a dull tale.
Compared with his other work, this latest offering more than stands up to be counted. The pages fairly fly by and you might well find yourself up late with this one. All in all, this is a clever, well-researched, entertaining novel that will satisfy fans and doubtless hook newcomers into further reading. Thouroughly recommended.
on 21 April 2012
Goddard's previous book, Blood Count, marked a low point in his writing, with a idiotically gullible hero and a dreadful ending. So it was with some trepidation that I bought his latest work, Fault Line. This was going to be make or break for me - another dud and I'd give up on Goddard, despite having read all his novels so far.
Well I finished the novel this evening after a marathon few days' reading. In many ways, it felt like a return to form. As ever, we have a likeable hero who must delve into the past to find answers to solve a seemingly uncrackable conundrum. As usual, there are a number of fatalities along the way!
I'm not going to give a plot synopsis - Amazon can provide that. But for Goddard fans, I hope my comments will help you decide whether to buy this book.
Is it me, or does Goddard return to Cornwall often? I don't particularly mind this and I recall more than one that I've really enjoyed. But a part of me thought "oh no here we go again". Our hero, Jonathan Kellaway is a character we immediately take to. But some other characters in the book are more like caricatures: Goddard's style seems to have become more simplistic in recent works - the careful plotting and unforeseen twists are not quite as tight, as satisfying, as in his earlier works. Some of the characters are just too thin. Early in this novel, I cringed just once or twice as some of the writing seemed a little gauche, almost naive, when describing Jonathan's teenage years and dealings with the families involved in the Cornwall china clay business. But I don't feel that Goddard has ever been good when it comes to writing romance, let alone sex!
But despite these early misgivings, I was soon drawn into the plot and the characters. Very much so. As with classic Goddard, the reader quickly bonds with the players and I felt myself not just drawn in but transported to their world. And again, back to form, it's the historical sections which are most compelling. In this novel, historical = 1960's, so don't worry that you're buying historical fiction. Definitely not!
Overall, very satisfying. I recommend it without hesitation. Not his best (hence 4 stars), but much better than Blood Count and Found Wanting. The dénouement comes about very quickly but doesn't feel rushed. Goddard avoided a very obvious and twee ending, one which I saw coming a mile off and was pleased, in fact relieved, that he chose not to write! So +1 star for not being predictable and twee.
After Blood Count, I was dreading his next novel. Now, after Fault Line, I'm looking forward to the next one!
on 9 June 2012
Sorry about the title; I'm not a wine enthusisast but the fancy terminology seemed just right!
Robert Goddard's first novel was published in 1986, and 'Fault Line' is his twenty-third book; all of these are stand-alone novels, but three of them - 'Into the Blue'(1990), 'Out of the Sun'(1996) and 'Never Go Back'(2006) - form a series insofar as they feature the same lead character, Harry Barnett. There's a quintessential Britishness about Goddard's work, which (at least in my view) raises it above the formulaic, American-influenced offerings of most other British writers in the crime-thriller genre. Over the years, Goddard has become renowned as a master of complex, twisted plotting, though some reviewers feel that his more recent output does not reflect the quality of his earlier work.
The lead character in 'Fault Line' is Jonathan Kellaway; we first meet him in 2010, as he is about to undertake his last job as troubleshooter for Intercontinental Kaolins. He is despatched from Augusta, Georgia, to St. Austell, Cornwall, the town where he grew up. Greville Lashley, the nonagenarian controlling shareholder of IK, has commissioned a British academic to write a detailed company history, starting with the small constituent companies which, by merger or acquisition, came together to form Cornish China Clays, the acorn from which the whole global enterprise developed. It transpires that a suspicious gap has been found in the archives at St. Austell; a twelve-year run of documents relating to Walter Wren & Co., covering the period ending with the acquisition of that company by Cornish China Clays in late 1968, has mysteriously disappeared. And Greville Lashley was effectively running Walter Wren & Co. for most of that period.
The narrative moves back to 1968, when Jonathan had just left St. Austell Grammar School and was waiting to take up a place at the London School of Economics. During the long Summer holiday he became friendly with Oliver Foster, Lashley's 16-year-old stepson, and, through him, with his slightly older sister, Vivienne, with whom Jonathan immediately falls in largely unrequited love, though their lives do subsequently become entangled. I can't go further without spoiling the pleasure of prospective readers, but the narrative later moves on to 1968 and then to 1984, each such episode being intercut by a brief return to 2010, the last and lengthiest of these taking the story to its conclusion.
Goddard writes extremely well; his words flow smoothly and seductively, insidiously enfolding the reader in the detail of the story. He doesn't rely on cliff-hangers; his narrative style is just so addictive that putting the book aside demands an iron will. I thoroughly enjoyed the story (I read the book in two sittings) and was impressed by the wealth of accurate detail which made the historical episodes come alive. Nothing struck me as being inherently incredibe, and until the last few pages I was thinking in terms of five stars at least. So why am I awarding only three?
In short, the ending is a serious disappointment. One reviewer describes it as a damp squib, and that pretty much sums it up. There IS a solution - it isn't one of those irritatingly unspecific conclusions - but it's just not good enough for what has gone before. In the title of my review, I refer to the aftertaste, and in my view that's an even bigger problem. As you avidly work your way through the book, you are focused upon WHAT is happening. Once you have discovered the solution, there's a temptation to consider WHY various things happened, and in too many instances a convincing reason is hard to find. And, disconcertingly, it ultimately becomes clear that the whole adventure was unnecessary; the desired result could easily have been reached by a much simpler route.
So why as many as three stars? Well, I could be superficial and say thet I simply averaged out a five-star story with a one-star ending, but it goes deeper than that. Until I had read well beyond 90% of the book, I thought it was one of the best, if not THE best of its kind that had come my way for a year or more, and that means a lot. Prospective readers need not fear; foreknowledge of a problem with the ending should not spoil your pleasure, and at the current Amazon price (£8.83 for the hardback in June 2012) you will not regret your purchase. Even a miserable whinger like myself doesn't feel cheated!
I have enjoyed most of the Robert Goddard's novels and like any prolific author some are better than others. Fault Line is one of the better ones, but not in the top rank. As usual the writing is very good but I didn't find it such a page-turner as some of his earlier books. He has done quite a bit of research into the china clay industry, not an obvious choice for a thriller writer. This isn't a thriller but more a carefully crafted book with several story-lines told in retrospect back to the 60s, 80s and the present day. The main character, Jonathon, tells the stories in the first person, which works well and switching among the multiple time periods isn't too confusing. In his quest to find missing company documents he gets embroiled in suspicious deaths and travels extensively trying to unravel the truth and find out whether these events are linked. Despite his eventful life he remains a two-dimensional character. I didn't find any of the characters engaging enough to make me care about the final revelations which made the denouement a damp squibb.
Worth reading but not wonderful likePainting The Darkness which is so unforgetable i can't read it again because I vividly remember the ending, which is the climax of the many twists and turns.
I quite enjoyed this but don't think it is up to his usual standard. It was easy to read with a good few twists and turns. I also really enjoy Goddard's style of writing. I loved the setting in Capri although he didn't do much for the beauty of Cornwall. The main reasons the novel didn't stand out for me was that I felt the character of Jonathan was quite weakly drawn and was merely a device of the plot; but more importantly, I didn't find the plot all that interesting or engaging. It is worth a read though, just not his best.
on 7 April 2012
Fault Line goes back to a tragic episode that destroyed the Wrens, a wealthy Cornish mining family, in the 1960s. The main character, Jonathan Kellaway gets caught up in the subsequent history of the the Wren family and the long reaching consequences of the tragedy. Robert Goddard's writing is of a very high standard and I enjoyed reading large parts of this book, despite the initial slowness of the pace.
Fault Line flips between the 1960s, the 1980s and the present and also lurches from Cornwall, to Capri and the U.S. At times it seemed that two separate plots were in operation, neither of them very strongly connected. One involving possible corporate fraud, the other an Italian betrayal dating from World War Two. I kept hoping and expecting that the two plots would gel, perhaps in a surprise reveal at the end, but was ultimately disappointed as the conclusion was something of a damp squib and didn't really seem related to previous events.
The other reason I have given Fault Line only three stars is that I couldn't really believe in the main character. Jonathan Kellaway was a likeable enough man, but I found it hard to believe that he would hitch his fortunes to the family mining firm in the way he did. Also, he didn't seem to have any personal life of his own, other than that directly related to the plot. Nothing appeared to happen to him, other than the events that needed to take place for the plot to proceed.
All in all, a bit disappointing, but still a good read compared to some of the lesser quality offerings out there at the moment.
on 5 December 2012
A return to his best.
So good that the hero is not a flawed drunk/innocent or morally venal character but a person who starts with principals which are maintained throughout the 40 years covered in the book.
Unlike other `heroes' Jon does not make fatally bad decisions and while he is being manipulated, he is aware of this and still does what he believes to be the correct thing. This may make Jon a more `boring' central character but I liked him and felt for him in his dilemmas unlike the last two books, which I struggled to finish reading as the plots and characters were distasteful to me.
I read it in a day as I was gripped by the story and even though I guessed part of the ending (or so I thought) I had to read to the finish. The final twists proved that I hadn't been totally right and there were questions still unanswered, ambiguous like the best of a Barbara Vine (Dark adapted eye).