Tuesday, June 02, 2015

New World War I Thriller Series from Robert Goddard: THE WAYS OF THE WORLD

US cover
How have I missed out on Robert Goddard's British thrillers until now? His website proclaims him "master of the clever twist," and Grove Atlantic released today his 24th book -- and the first in a World War I-era trilogy: THE WAYS OF THE WORLD. Max Maxted -- well, his family calls him James, but everyone else uses Max -- was a flying ace during the Great War, and finished the conflict as a prisoner of war. He's still very reactive to enclosed spaces, especially damp, dark ones. But with the enthusiastic partnership of his former sergeant Sam, who still refers to him as the lieutenant, Max is about to put his Flying Ace skills to glorious work: starting his own flying school in green and peaceful England.

Or he was. Because at the start of THE WAYS OF THE WORLD, Max's cleverer-than-she-looks mother has just tracked him to a hangar of aircraft he plans to purchase. And with one blunt announcement, she turns his priorities her way: "It's your father, James," said Lady Maxted. "He's been killed, I'm afraid."

There's no reason to think the death is anything other than an unfortunate -- perhaps embarrassing -- accident. After all, Sir Henry Maxted, 2nd Baronet, had a long diplomatic career most definitely on the wane after the war, and his "work" in Paris was probably just a formality, a chance to put an old man out on display for something not very important. Max and, especially, his older brother Ashley know that; so does Lady Maxted.

But Max's newly widowed mother is placing her confidence in her younger son, not in the new Baronet, as the brothers pack for a rapid journey to Paris, the scene of Sir Henry's death. She takes Max aside and says Ashley is obedient and reliable, but:
"I know I can rely on him to protect your father's memory at all costs. Whereas you ..."

"Whereas I?"

"Will go in search of the truth . . . wherever it is to be found. ... All I ask is this: if you discover your father was the victim of something other than an accident and if you discover what that something was ..."


"I should like to hear of it before you proclaim it to the world."

Max felt the full force of his mother's gaze as he stood before her.
What Max would never have guessed was that his mother didn't just suspect her husband of a routine French affaire. She's the one who senses that he's been up to more than a routine diplomatic mission, too.

But as Max begins to peel back the layers of his complicated father's life abroad, first he gets in trouble with the French police himself. Then he finds the deep waters of espionage, intrigue, and criminal enterprise. The old diplomat was doing all this? Max doesn't have time to marvel much -- he's running too hard to catch up, in terms of expertise, daring, investigation skills, and a quickly rising awareness of danger and risk that makes him very glad his sergeant Sam turns up in time to help out.

It's hard not to race into this book as a reader, too: Goddard's clearly at the top of his form, writing swift action scenes and intense character-changing conflicts. THE WAYS OF THE WORLD is a prime page-turner. Released in the United Kingdom in 2013, it's a new release today for American readers. I'm hoping Globe Atlantic will provide the second book of the trilogy quickly, as The Corners of the Globe is already in print across the ocean. Good reading!

And for me, good to know there are also 23 other Robert Goddard thrillers to track down while I'm waiting for the next installment of Max Maxted's death-defying investigation!

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