When disgraced former history teacher, Martin Radford, is invited to holiday with an old friend in Madeira who now runs an English language newspaper, it is an offer too good to refuse. So is another offer given by a wealthy recluse on the island, Leo Sellick, who also happens to fund the newspaper Martin’s friend edits. Leo wants to utilize Martin’s skills as an historian to solve a puzzle that has bothered him ever since he found a memoir in the house he bought and which belonged to a former English diplomat. The diplomat, Edwin Stafford was, once upon a time, a rising star in the British parliament, but suddenly, at the height of his career, not only resigns but the woman he loves and his engaged to marry spurns him without explanation.
Alone, unhappy, Edwin takes the post of governor of Madeira and, later, writes his memoir which explores his life up until his change of circumstance in an effort to understand it. Only, he is no wiser for having written and dies not knowing why his love turned against him as did his former employers. When Leo finds the memoir years later, he’s intrigued and hires Martin to discover exactly what happened. Traveling back to England, what Martin doesn’t expect when he begins his search for the truth is the trail of destruction, deceit and betrayal he finds nor the lengths to which people will go, even now, decades after events, to cover them up. Soon Martin finds his race to find the truth is a race to stay alive…
This is the second Robert Goddard book I have read (the first is Into the Blue which I will try and review as well) and it is riveting. Goddard has such skill – not only in the plotting of these dense and fascinating novels, but in the way he develops character. His use of language so evocative. He has the ability to put you in the moment, a place, invoke a mood, and inspire a visceral reaction. You are able to see and hear the characters as they converse or move across the landscape of his story. I am so happy to have discovered this writer and that there are many more of his books for me to enjoy.
If you like a well-written, totally plausible, slow burn but never, ever dull mystery, then these are the books for you. This was the first one he wrote, it’s the second I read and it won’t be the last.