Select one of the keywords
Sight Unseen    by Robert Goddard order for
Sight Unseen
by Robert Goddard
Order:  USA  Can
Delta, 2006 (2005)
Softcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

When the prologue to Sight Unseen opens on a July afternoon in 1981, graduate student David Umber travels to Avebury. It is there that he plans to meet a mysterious caller from Oxford who has promised to share with Umber a priceless edition of an extremely rare 18th century text. Acquiring this text, a collection of published letters written by the political activist known only by the pseudonym Junius, promises to be the crowning achievement in Umber's doctoral studies.

However, as Umber waits for the stranger from Oxford at an outdoor table at Avebury's Red Lion pub, something terrible happens, and what Umber witnesses will forever change his life. A young nanny, Sally Wilkinson, escorts three small children of the Hall family along the roadway to get a better view of the nearby monoliths. Suddenly a man grabs the smallest of the children and drags her into a waiting van. As the van speeds off, another of the children is run down and killed.

Now, fast-forward to the present. Umber - struggling to put his past disappointments and failures behind him - has been working as a tour guide in Prague, a city rich in history (and not so coincidentally for purposes of Robert Goddard's Sight Unseen, a city that was also home to Franz Kafka!) Quite suddenly, from out of the past, Umber is confronted by George Sharp (former detective chief inspector, now retired from the Wiltshire Constabulary). Sharp had worked on the case in Avebury in 1981, and he thought the case was closed when a man confessed to kidnapping and then killing the child, but now there is a startling new development: Someone has sent Sharp an enigmatic letter telling him that he had botched the Avebury inquiry and should now do something about it. Sharp would probably ignore the letter except for the signature. That changes everything!

Now, because of Umber's unique connection to the Avebury case, Sharp needs Umber's assistance. A reluctant Umber joins forces with Sharp, and off they go - from Prague to Avebury - to unofficially reopen the investigation. In doing so, they hope to track down everyone associated with the 1981 incident. Having begun their quest, however, both Umber and Sharp will soon come to realize that some things - including the truth - are perhaps better left alone.

Sight Unseen, another dazzling gem from a 'cunning storyteller who can twist a bundle of narrative threads into a hangman's noose' (New York Times Book Review), is a tautly constructed tale filled with suspense and surprises. Kafkaesque in its nightmarish inevitability, Umber's and Sharp's grim pilgrimage into the dark territory of truth, deceit, and the burdens of an unpleasant past will appeal to sophisticated readers who want their mysteries literate, provocative, and complicated.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Mystery books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews