Wednesday, January 31

Sight Unseen by Robert Goddard

Review by Theodore Feit

 

In this highly readable novel, David Umber is caught up in a web of intrigue that so complicates his life that he just drifts away into oblivion from a promising career as an historian.  He is working on his PhD on an obscure topic—the Junius Letters—written in the 1700s by an unidentified person critical of the King, when he is promised a look at a rare edition of the bound volumes prepared for the author.   He is to meet the person in Avebury, but instead is witness to the kidnapping pf a two-year-old girl and the hit-and-run murder of her sister.

 

As a result of the tragedy, David befriends the nanny who was in charge of the children, ultimately marrying her.  They leave England, but his wife never really recovers from the incident, and leaves him when she discovers a clue as to the identity of the missing child years later.  She is then found electrocuted in her bathtub in England, while David is shilling away his days in Prague, living from hand to mouth.

 

A retired detective, originally on the case, seeks Umber out and convinces him to assist in investigating the truth of the incident, even though a convicted sex offender had confessed to the kidnapping.  Soon after, the confessor is murdered in prison.  Their efforts proceed, and the theory arises that David's wife also was murdered.   The trail leads to Jersey, where the little girl's father, now remarried, and her brother now live. The detective is framed and placed in jail for drug smuggling and the brother commits suicide.

 

Meanwhile, David identifies the missing girl, now in her twenties, when he accidentally discovers the clue that sent his wife off on her quest.  [None of this constitutes a spoiler, BTW—reference to much of it is to be found on the back outside cover.]  The Junius volumes play a key role in the mystery, and David's expertise is essential in unraveling the mystery.   The twists at each phase of the story keep the reader on edge.  And the denouement is so wholly unexpected that the reader is left in awe.  Highly recommended.

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