on 6 July 2014
I've been a fan of Robert Goddard for quite a while, and even though his books are mystery/thrillers with a reveal/twist at the end I can read them again and again. I love his story telling and the journey of his novels as much as the final destination.
I was a bit disappointed with the ending of the first part of this trilogy - largely because I didn't realise it was a trilogy at the time, so when it came to the cliff hangar ending I felt a bit disappointed, even cheated. However with this book, it was always clear that it was part two of the trilogy so the cliff hangar ending was not a surprise, but expected.
The story cracks along at a savage pace, and that is where the problem with this book lies. Frankly the pace of the storyline has become manic - like a movie director trying to get 3 hours of plot into a two hour film. The plot is intense and convoluted (which is fine) - but it needs a lot more room to breathe - accidentally skim read a paragraph and you could end up lost.
I like these characters, I like the plot, and I can't wait for the story to resolve with the final part of the trilogy. There are some howling coincidences - but they are forgivable, even necessary, in this genre of novel.
Still, it is way better than much of the other stuff you will find out there, but please let the final part of the trilogy be more like a solid and engrossing build up to huge crescendo, rather than the high speed antics of the closing credits of the Benny Hill Show.
However, the proof of the pudding is that I can't wait to get hold of the final part of the trilogy - please don't keep us waiting too long for it !
on 24 July 2014
I'm a huge Goddard fan. Since reading Into The Blue during the summer when it won the Thumping Good Read award, I have read all his books, some several times. I'd rank him as my favourite author, bar none.
... I struggled to get through this one. I'd pick it up, but even after a couple of paragraphs, I'd find my mind wandering. It's a spy story, and when compared with other novels in this genre, there is nothing much wrong with it, hence the 3 stars. A load of blokes go round annihilating each other. Characters are introduced and killed in short order. No matter, plenty more where they came from. There is no emotional depth at all, not much in the way of back stories, no reason for you to care what happens. Maxted (the central protagonist) asks someone to do something. Moments later, they are dead. Does this give him pause for thought, a moment of regret? Nope!
Anyone who knows (and loves) the Goddard of Past Caring, In Pale Battalions, Beyond Recall, Hand In Glove, or Painting The Darkness (to name but a few examples), will know that he is capable of writing books with cracking story lines, full of mystery and intrigue and twists and turns, but where you care about the characters. Where their stories stay with you for years. Where you reread and feel as though you are meeting old friends. Where you are grabbed from the first paragraph and held till the last page. Oh how I long for another Goddard novel with these attributes. Oh how I miss the enjoyment of a first read of such quality. Oh how I mourn the change of style and the loss of depth and my subsequent lack of engagement.
Will I read the next installment? I will, borrowed from the library. I doubt I'll be able to remember anything about it within a day or so of finishing it. But, for old time's sake, I'll give it a go.
With the Great War over, the powers of the world assemble in Paris to decide on terms for victors and vanquished. While diplomats and ministers meet to discuss terms, agents and spies work to their masters' agendas, dealing in secrets, hiding sins, removing obstacles. Circumstances, though, have made a spy of James Maxted, known to most as Max. With his father Sir Henry murdered, found in Paris at the end of a steep drop, Max is after answers and vengeance. The more Max learns, the deeper he descends into a most perilous world. The cost of peace is immense and no-one knows this better than Max, the man who survived years as a pilot and then a prisoner of war.
The Corners of the Globe is the second in Robert Goddard's historical spy thriller series, begun so well with last year's The Ways of the World. There is no pause from the previous novel. Max is now determined on his course of action. His father's death might be less of a mystery now, proven to be murder and not suicide, but Max knows that Sir Henry's killer was just one small cog in a wheel that surrounds Paris. Vengeance on the murderer is not enough. Max is after the leaders and to take them on he plays a very dangerous game indeed.
As the novel begins, Max is on a `mission' for Germany's chief spymaster, to travel to Orkney to rescue a document from the interred German fleet. It contains secrets so powerful they can draw out spies from the shadows. As British and German agents search for Max, the British secret service is in danger of collapsing from the inside out, its double agents making themselves known in the desperate scramble for the document. Meanwhile in Paris, Max's old manservant, and now chauffeur to the British diplomats, Sam, is caught up in his own deadly game, mixed up in a power struggle amongst the Japanese delegation to Paris which strikes to the heart of what Sir Henry was up to in the city.
The result is an immense tangle of deceit and treachery. German, Japanese and British agents scramble for position, with Max pursued across Scotland and England to France and Sam fighting his own battle on the streets and rooftops of Paris. Both of them must decide who they are prepared to trust. Fortunately, they each encounter men and women prepared to help them, to stand up for what is right. But bodies fall on both sides.
The Corners of the Globe presents Max's transformation into spy. His humanity lessens as his heart hardens. He directly puts other people's lives in danger and he is prepared to live with the consequences, while they might not. There is one memorable scene where he comes across an old comrade from the war, begging on the streets, one leg missing. Max pretends he doesn't know the man when asked and so he must then watch the light of hope fade from his old friend's eyes. With so many lies and deaths, there is bound to be tragedy, and we encounter it in the sadness of bereaved lovers, sons, sisters and friends. It's an intriguing mix, this contradiction between Max's increasing hardness and the amount of suffering he meets, even causes.
Without doubt, The Corners of the Globe is a complicated novel. Fortunately, there are some recaps of what went on before in The Ways of the World and I found this vital. You could read this second novel without having read the first - enough is made clear - but a knowledge of The Ways of the World does add greatly to one's appreciation of Goddard's admirable plotting and the development of Max's character. While I enjoyed the first novel greatly, I enjoyed the second even more. There is much more focus on what matters, less attention given to Max's family in England, a greater number of puzzles, more danger and much more involvement by Max as the novel's driving force. The secondary characters are also given additional life.
It's all backed up by the most atmospheric and evocative worldbuilding. Paris in particular is given a life of its own, with rich descriptions of its famous streets and places, populated by a cast of characters from around the world, each of whom has his or her own agenda in the negotiations for peace and domination and revenge. The Great War itself gets little direct mention, except for the regular reminders and memories of shell-shocked, injured, dead servicemen. It is the trauma that overshadows all else.
My only complaint about this superb novel is its cliffhanger ending which is the most blatant cliffhanger that I've encountered and seems totally out of place in a book of such class. The novel as a whole makes me desperate to read the trilogy's conclusion (I love the direction in which it's heading), it doesn't need such a cheap gimmick. Nevertheless, this is a minor niggle and it only slightly marred my appreciation for a novel that is, especially during the second half, an unputdownable thrilling race for answers. I'm grateful for the review copy.
on 15 July 2015
I ploughed through this as a dufiful Goddard fan without any real and sustained pleasure. Having read part one of the trilogy I had no choice and, in fact, have just started part three. If only there wasn't danger and double cross on virtually every page it would, perhaps, be a more readable saga. Now some might say that this sounded like a good thing - I don't. After so many incidents that you could predict with almost 100% accuracy I started thinking "Ho, hum - onto the next shooting".
It occurred to me midway through the book that there was absolutely no point to all this danger that Maxted gets himself into. He's up against two kind of mafioso factions - Lemmer's gang and the Japanese - and you can't help thinking "For heavens sake, just give it up! Open your flying school". This plan to go to Japan at the end with a crack team of.....what, exactly?.....puts the tin hat on it.
I WILL get through part three just to see how it turns out. I've come this far, so I have to. But oh Mr Goddard - this is NOT an enjoyable read.
I finished this only because I had nothing better to read. It's ok, but there are far too many characters, most of them up to no good, although we have absolutely no clue why they are killing people, chasing the hero, pull out nails (fingernails) of innocent guys etc. Oh, and there are mysterious Japanese who are the real nasty guys of course. What a totally stupid book. Who let Goddard get away with this rubbish? Remind me a little bit of Clive Cussler who (in addition to tens of adventure books) has written a series of books about a hero in the early 1900. But Clive's storytelling is much, much better than Robert's. Suggest you borrow this book from the library so you can return it after a couple of days half read.