Twenty three years after an unsolved kidnapping, an anonymous letter reopens a case involving the latest in Goddard’s long line of innocent, compromised bystanders.
July 27, 1981. David Umber, a graduate student at Cambridge whose project is identifying the 18th-century whistle-blower known only as Junius, has gone to the town of Avebury to meet a man named Griffin, who’s promised him a peek at an old edition of Junius’s correspondence with a remarkable inscription. Griffin never shows up, so Umber is sitting alone watching in stupefaction when someone snatches two-year-old Tamsin Hall from Sally Wilkinson, her nanny, and runs over Tamsin’s sister Miranda, seven, when she gives chase. Drawn together by their shocked inability to prevent the tragedy, Umber and Sally become lovers, then spouses, then exes, before Sally’s death in 1999. All’s well that ends ill until George Sharp, the retired Chief Inspector once in charge of the case, turns up in Prague to pluck Umber from his lecturing stint and cart him back to Avebury. Sharp’s received a letter urging him to revisit the case—a letter signed “Junius” that consists entirely of cut-and-paste excerpts from Junius’s letters. The hook is irresistible, and so is the delicious thrill of watching Umber, like many other Goddard heroes (Play to the End, 2006, etc.), get led by the nose by every witness he interviews—the surviving Halls, Sally’s therapist and best friend, a private eye who’s been working the case for over 20 years—till he’s cut loose from Sharp and dropped through a series of trap doors. The sense of urbane paranoia is skillfully maintained through one mind-boggling surprise after another. Only the final revelation is a letdown.
A suavely sturdy suspenser, first published in the UK in 2005, that manages better than most Goddards to lead its well-meaning hero through ever more insidious snares without making him look like a complete fool.