Robert Goddard has been called "master of the twist" and you really cannot go wrong with any of the delightful mystery/thrillers he has written. Since the release of his first novel, PAST CARING, in 2006, Goddard has been a regular visitor to the international bestseller lists, and FOUND WANTING is his 20th release. Thankfully, the past several years has found much of his previous work published in the United States in an effort to introduce a new audience to his clever writing.
FOUND WANTING represents another example of Goddard's ability to keep an interesting and unpredictable plot moving at a frenetic pace. On a particularly unremarkable morning, middle-aged civil servant Richard Eusden is on his way to work in London when he is approached by his ex-wife, Gemma. Not having spoken to her since their nasty divorce, he's surprised by her appearance. He's equally surprised to learn from her the news that an old friend of his, Marty Hewitson, is dying and has asked for a special favor he needs Richard to do for him.
If you're a regular reader of Goddard, you will immediately become suspicious that this is no mere simple favor and will probably end up involving Richard in situations that quickly spin out of his control. Upon meeting with his dying friend, Richard agrees to follow up on some information Marty needs to investigate that will take Richard out of London and start him on a quest that sends him into the Nordic heart of a mystery that involves jumping between Belgium, Germany and Denmark.
Richard learns quickly to trust nothing and no one --- least of all the apparently innocent dying intentions of Marty. Before he can sort things out fully, he finds himself ensnared in a web of trickery and deceit that has been spun by a mysterious Scandinavian billionaire. What makes things that much more troubling is the personal nature that this quest has taken. Some of the information Richard turns up on his journey lead back to Marty's long-dead grandfather, Clem Hewitson. The mystery that Marty's grandfather has kept hidden for so long will send Richard to the Isle of Wight where a police officer there may have had knowledge of the tragic fate of the Russian Royal Romanov family who were allegedly massacred back in 1918. Could a member of the Romanovs have survived that massacre, and, if so, what do the long-dead Clem Hewitson and the Isle of Wight have to do with this secret?
Further complicating matters is when Richard discovers that his own grandfather, a policeman in Cowes, was apparently present at the time the Romanov royal family visited London in the years prior to the Russian Revolution and that he may have been indirectly linked to their fate. As Richard's delving into this mystery begins to deepen, he recognizes that his own life is in danger, as there are still powerful forces that will stop at nothing to keep this mystery permanently buried.
FOUND WANTING may not possess the shocking plot twists of some of Goddard's prior novels, but it does present a lot of international intrigue and a pace that rivals something out of the Jason Bourne series. I always find myself comparing Goddard's writing to the film work of director M. Night Shyamalan --- once you've experienced your first amazing plot twist or shocking ending, you find yourself focusing too hard in their succeeding efforts to brace for the next one. This is not necessarily fair, as it is nearly impossible to fool people all the time. Leave it said that a Robert Goddard novel, like FOUND WANTING, should be taken at face value, and rest assured that you will be in for a good read with whatever situation he throws at you.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on March 28, 2011