Harry Barnett returns to his hometown in England to close his late
mother’s estate, he runs into two old mates from his days in
the RAF. He is invited to the 50th reunion of a dozen comrades who
served together at a castle in Aberdeen, Scotland, where they spent
a tour of duty in 1955. A break from clearing closets and cupboards
sounds like fun, so he joins them for what promises to be a
nostalgic weekend. When one member of the group ends up dead and
another goes missing before they reach their destination, a
perilous search into a murky past begins.
An evening in the bar car renders the revelers unconscious in their
train seats. During the night, Harry’s seatmate gets up for
fresh air and doesn’t come back. By the time they reach
Aberdeen, Harry finds himself under suspicion in his disappearance.
When the man’s body is found alongside the railway tracks,
Harry is a prime murder suspect. As he tries to ferret out the
truth behind the further accidents and disappearances of his old
mates, Harry is drawn deeper into a half-century-old mystery.
None of Harry’s companions seems to have memories of their
tour of duty, which was a crash course in college-level basics.
Yet, slowly, déjà vu creeps in. A tour of the castle
triggers sudden flashes of hidden memories among some of the men,
and the ones with the most vivid recall meet with accidents or even
death. Harry and another of his old buddies remember nothing except
parties and studying, yet as events unfold, they begin to realize
that they too are in imminent danger.
Harry Barnett has a knack for finding himself in the wrong place at
the wrong time. As the reluctant hero of INTO THE
BLUE (1990), he is a down-and-out expatriate living in Greece
who is the last person to see a young woman who vanishes while they
are hiking in the hills above Rhodes. He returns in OUT OF THE
SUN (1996) to resolve a family crisis with a son he never
knew. Now, in his golden years, having found peace and happiness in
a marriage and becoming the father of a young daughter, he once
again makes a decision that will change his life --- or end
Robert Goddard is a master storyteller and weaver of suspense. He
has topped Britain’s book lists for two decades since the
publication of his first bestselling novel in 1986. His vivid sense
of place and time, intricate plotting, and strong, memorable
characters lead readers willingly down each path he chooses to take
us. A historian by training and a man with a fascination for how
the past --- either an individual’s personal history or that
of grand events --– can come back to ensnare us in the
present are not only a stock in trade for Goddard, but one that he
has honed to a fine, duplicitous and chilling edge.
Harry Barnett so intrigued me that when I found myself with an hour
to kill near a local bookseller, I aimed for the Thriller/Mystery
section and found a copy of INTO THE BLUE. I am now better
acquainted with Harry in his muddled middle age, all to better
appreciate the senior Barnett of NEVER GO BACK, who can still slide
down a tile roof and survive a foot chase through the back streets
of Swindon. He’s breathing heavily and in need of a pint or
two at the end, but he’s a survivor.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 12, 2011
Never Go Back