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by Robert Goddard
Delta, April 2006
464 pages
ISBN: 0385339216

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Robert Goddard's latest standalone mystery, HAND IN GLOVE, is a profound, hard-hitting, empathetic tour-de-force. Somehow, Goddard achieves the riveting pacing of a Clancy with genuinely complex and human characters. Tristram Abberley, 1920s Bloomsbury dilettante poet turned by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War into a neo-Byronic guerrilla, is the kind of hero that legends are built round, but he's also long dead when the novel begins.

Among his survivors are his now-octogenarian sister Beatrix and her beloved step-niece Charlotte Ladram. When Beatrix is murdered by a man she evidently knew and a dodgy but not sadistic antique dealer is charged with the crime, his brother Derek, convinces Charlotte that the real murderer is still on the loose.

Derek and Charlotte pursue him, and find a string of secrets, lies, and ghosts from the dead poet's past. In order to solve the mystery, they must destroy the legend. Will Charlotte find the evidence -- and the courage -- to do that?

Goddard leaps dynamically between genres, subjects, styles, and perspectives with ease. The book begins as a mystery and, when that is solved, evolves immediately into a thriller. If you're sceptical of literary hagiography or interested in political intrigue, read it.

I can only imagine the research that Goddard needed to construct his leaps between the tranquil English countryside in the late 20th century and the battlefield of Teruel in the late 1930s. It's told from multiple perspectives, including Beatrix's, Charlotte's, Derek's, and, in a series of letters that appear to yellow and crumble as you read, those of Tristram Abberley himself.

HAND IN GLOVE reminds me a little of Barry Unsworth's 1999 horror novel, LOSING NELSON, in which an historical mystery and a present-day thriller are also woven together, throwing legend and truth into stark relief. Though maybe not for the most committed fans of DEAD POETS' SOCIETY, Goddard's latest is a powerful, engaging tale.

Reviewed by Rebecca Nesvet, June 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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