Nick Paleologus is summoned to the unyielding bosom of his family to help resolve a dispute which threatens to set his brothers and sisters against their aged and irascible father. Michael Paleologus, retired archaeologist and supposed descendant of the last Emperors of Byzantium, lives alone at Trennor, a remote and rambling house on the Cornish bank of the Tamar. A ridiculously generous offer has been made for the house, but he refuses to sell despite the urgings of his children, for whom the proceeds would solve a variety of problems. Nick accomplishes little in the role of mediator, but the stalemate is soon tragically broken. Only then do Nick and his siblings discover why their father was bound at all costs to reject the offer and what may really be the motives of the prospective buyer. Their increasingly desperate efforts to conceal the truth drag them into a deadly conflict with an unseen and unknown enemy, who seems as determined to force them into a confrontation with their family’s past as he is to conceal his own identity. Late in the day, perhaps too late, Nick realizes that the only way to escape from the trap their persecutor has set for them is to hunt him down, wherever - and whoever - he may be. But the hunt involves excavating a terrible secret from their father’s archaeological career. And once that secret is known, nothing will ever be the same again.
©2003 Robert and Vaunda Goddard (P)2003 W. F. Howes
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
I love Robert Goddard’s writing. In my three previous outings with him I have been impressed with his ability to weave complex suspense stories around characters that had depth and believability. His plot twists were always delightfully surprising, yet remained within context, avoiding the “give me a break” groan.
Sadly “Days Without Number” failed on almost every level of his usual excellence. For me the fatal flaw was Goddard’s failure to define just what the mystery was. Over and over we hear the phrase “the secret is, that there is no secret”. The result is a whole lot of running around, a growing body count, and still no defined reason for any of this to be happening. As with other Goddard books, events that occurred in the past rear up in the present presenting unforeseen consequences for our current characters. Usually Goddard takes us via flashbacks to the relevant past where we experience the events that have set the current chaos in motion. This time however we are merely fed history lessons on the Templars and on the destruction of churches during Cromwell’s Civil War, and given tidbits on archaeological investigations in the area. There is a huge cast of secondary characters, many of whom we never meet because they are names from the father’s past, who are given mighty importance but feel more like red herrings because their relevance is just not made clear. I’m not usually confused by multiple character plots, but for this one I really did feel the need for a scorecard. By the time the whole affair was wrapped up, I was hopelessly lost as to what was going on and the solution still left me scratching my head. All of the Goddard elements were there, but just not smoothly knitted together.
A final note of disappointment, not the fault of the author – I REALLY missed the elegant narration of Michael Kitchen. Griffin was ok, except that he made the fortyish aged characters sound so old - especially Basil, who came off as in his seventies. Made it impossible to get a mind’s eye picture of them. For those new to Goddard, don’t start here – try “Painting the Darkness” or “Caught in the Light” first.
Painter, musician, bibliophile...
In "Days Without Number," the Paleologus children gather for a birthday celebration for the eldest at the Cornish home of their rather beastly father. They have received a generous offer from a wealthy man who is ostensibly interested in the father's house for archaeological and historical reasons. The gathering ends badly, with the father's refusal of the offer, as well as his usual voicing of complaints about how each of his children has disappointed him. The next day, he is found dead, apparently of an accident. But was it an accident? That, and many more mysteries, are at the heart of this compelling story.
Gordon Griffin is a new narrator for me, but an intriguing one. He really brought this story to life and gave distinct voices to each character. I'd love to listen to something else from him.
Having just finished Goddard's "Painting the Darkness," performed by the incomparable Michael Kitchen, I wanted to leave a review but found that the title is "unavailable." I highly recommend it also. In it Goddard shows himself to be a brilliant master in complete control of his medium. It has been interesting to see how his already excellent writing has been refined and perfected. He just gets better and better. Long may he write.
If you have not tried Goddard, go for it. If you like his style this book will not disappoint. Few authors can pull off a style that always intrigues the listener and makes one get into the characters. Goddard is exceptional in this regard. All of his books are great buys. This one is no exception.
I'm writing this much later, so what I remember is that it did not disappoint me at all. I find Robert Goddard's books suck you into the plot, which is always a bit of a stretch for believability, but that's part of the fun. It takes you totally away from whatever else you might be thinking about into a world of its own, which remains intriguing throughout the book. What more could you ask for?
"Engrossing blend of history and mystery"
Robert Goddard is one of my favourite authors and I greatly enjoyed this book. He is a master of combining interesting factual information with imaginative fiction. He creates three dimensional characters whose fate one follows with bated breath as twists and turns in the plot spring surprises on them and us. The story is based in Cornwall but diverts to Edinburgh and the nearby Rosslyn Chapel (which coincidentally I was walking past at the time!) and moves to Venice and Paris as the plot thickens. The book has a touch of the themes in Dan Brown's the Da VInci Code, but the writing is much better.
The narrator is excellent.
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