James Maxted, known to friends as Max and to family as James, is the protagonist of this engrossing historical novel and several planned sequels. Max is a former ace in World War I in what was later called the Royal Air Force. Shot down behind German lines midway through the war, he spent two years in a POW camp.
Now, mustered out of the service, Max plans to open a flying school in England in partnership with the airplane mechanic who had saved his life many times. Max has received permission from his father, Sir Henry Maxted, to set up his school on a portion of the family’s large country estate.
Then word arrives that Sir Henry has died in Paris, allegedly a suicide, and Max is left to the not-so-tender mercies of his older brother, now Sir Ashley, who is determined to deny Max the use of the land.
The Ways of the World (James Maxted #1) by Robert Goddard @@@@@ (5 out of 5)
Max begins poking into his father’s death and soon becomes convinced that he was murdered. In short order, Max finds himself embroiled with the French police, the British Secret Service, the Permanent Under-Secretary of the British government, and Sir Henry’s young mistress. The ensuing mystery is complex, suspenseful, and, at least to this reader, impossible to sort out until the end.
By my count, Robert Goddard has written twenty-five crime novels. Of those I’ve read — many, especially the early ones — the majority were formulaic mysteries set contemporaneously in Britain but hinging on some long-hidden tragedy that took place decades in the past and involved a treacherous woman. I enjoyed them, anyway.
The Ways of the World is more than a cut above Goddard’s early work. History figures in the plot in a major way, but the story is set in Paris as well as London, the contemporary events unfold in 1919 during the Versailles Peace Conference in Paris following World War I, and the plot is full of surprises. In every way, this book is a superior effort. It’s a treat for anyone who cherishes espionage novels or historical fiction.
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