Read In Pale Battalions by Robert Goddard Online


Goddard's new book is a tour de force, a masterful drama played out against a World War I tableau of English manors and bloody killing fields, of love amidst war, buried secrets, unsolved murders and mysteries within mysteries....

Title : In Pale Battalions
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780671649456
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 297 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

In Pale Battalions Reviews

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    2019-04-03 03:43

    Then, scanning all the o'ercrowded mass, should youPerceive one face that you loved heretofore,It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.Great Death has made all his for evermore.Waterlogged trench in WWIIn 1916, Captain John Hallows is reported killed in action in the Flanders fields of World War One. His death is only the first piece in a puzzle that takes decades for his daughter to ascertain the identity of her parents and the roles played by the constellation of people surrounding the events of this novel. At several points she feels she has all the pieces only to find a new fact that keeps her life a kaleidoscope of distorted images never quite forming a crisp, clear picture she can trust. As she unravels the truth from a nest of misdirection she discovers that...Everybody lies, everybody lies, everybody lies...,When Lieutenant Tom Franklin arrives at the Hallows manor house Moengate to recover from a shattered shoulder he received at the Battle of the Somme, he really was looking forward to meeting the wife and family of his good friend John Hallows. He doesn't find the pastoral English country setting he was expecting. The house is full of people, and oddly none of them are related to one another. With the death of Captain Hallows the strings attaching everyone together have been severed. Lord Powerstock is Captain John Hallows father. The Victorian age had vanished and left him, beached and bereft, in a world he no longer understood, where grief was merely a metaphor for all the sensations of his loss.Lady Olivia Powerstock is the 2nd Mrs. Hallows and is in all sense of the phrase a gold digger. Previously married to a painter Olivia is a woman lacking sexual restraint and has a feral capability that makes her dangerous to anyone associated with her. She has a steady stream of convalescing soldiers to seduce and does she ever seduce them. With Mae West curves accented by expensive, delicate, lingerie she finds few men can refuse her. Leonora Hallows is the wife of Captain Hallows. A beautiful widow that does not lack for suitors. She reveals that she is pregnant and as everybody starts counting on their fingers and discovers that Captain Hallows has been dead too long to be the father; the plot becomes murky with speculation. She is being blackmailed by Ralph Mompesson, but not necessarily for the reasons one might think.Lieutenant Tom Franklin soon falls in love with Leonora, barely avoids being seduced by the temptuous Olivia, and finds himself a mere pawn in the games of the household residents. Ralph Mompesson, the rich American arriving under a cloud of suspicion. He is the lover of Olivia, but is intent on seducing and marrying Leonora. He is so antagonistic that he makes enemies of everyone and when he ends up dead no one mourns his passing and everyone has motive. The suicide of a mentally war wounded soldier on the grounds after the murder provides easy closer for the case, but it is far from over. The investigation into the murder of Mompesson leaves more questions than answers. It made me think of the show Foyle's War where it seems so trivial investigating a murder when so many are being murdered on the fields of battle across the channel.Charter, John Hallows Grandfather, with the death of his grandson has lost all claim to his place at Moengate. He seems to be everywhere, an affable old man, a fly in the ointment that Olivia for one would like to see the last of, who knows much more about everything than what he is willing to tell. Now as I said earlier everyone lies in this novel, some to cover up their own guilt, some to protect those they think are guilty, and some just for the bloody hell of it. Half way through the novel all that I thought I knew was wrong. Three-quarters of the way through at least fifty percent of what I thought I knew was wrong. It is only when the final pieces are fitted together near the end that I could walk away from this novel at least thinking I know who, what, when and where. Excellent pacing in this novel and certainly brilliantly plotted and conceived. I'd tell you who done it, but then that wouldn't be any fun at all now would it?

  • Jonetta
    2019-03-28 03:42

    Six months following her husband's death, 70-year old Leonora Galloway takes her daughter, Penelope, on vacation to Paris but with a few unscheduled stops. The first is to Thievpal, site of the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme where her father, Captain John Hallows, perished in World War I. This begins Leonora's tale of her life's odyssey amidst her family's secrets, shared with her daughter for the first time. This is a tragic story told beautifully in an almost poetic style. The words matter here as they work to frame not only the events but capture the soul of each character. It didn't take me long to become almost mesmerized by the writing, even when I felt repulsed by some of the actions. What's brilliant, however, is how impossible it is to form lasting judgments about the characters (with a couple of exceptions) as they are just sometimes victims of circumstances, making choices that may appear unforgivable on the surface. It's what lies beneath that's not always evident or clear and I found my opinions shifting with each chapter. Told from multiple points of view and in strong voices, the story was compelling and the characters layered. There are many twists and turns, even through the last page. I loved this book and my experience reading it. It's my first by this writer and certainly not my last.

  • Jeanette
    2019-04-11 04:42

    Mmm, mmm, mmm! I'm smackin' my lips! Juicy! This was just delectable. I don't even like British mysteries, but I loved this one. I was torn between wanting to devour it and not wanting to finish it too fast. Intricately plotted, perfectly paced, and richly detailed. Full of the right mix of lovable and hatable characters. Secrets within secrets, double-backs and double-crosses. The fun never ends, right up to the very last page. Even when you figure out some of the secrets before you get to them, it's fun to read the details.Poor little orphaned Leonora Hallows grew up lonely at Meongate, the country estate of Lord and Lady Powerstock. She was mostly ignored by her grandfather Edward, and ill-treated by Olivia, her evil, conniving, manipulative step-grandmother. She heard whisperings and suggestions of murder and mayhem at Meongate before her birth, but no one would answer her questions. When Leonora is grown, she meets people who give her pieces of the story, but some of them are lying, and some of them think they know the truth and they are wrong. She pursues every clue and chases down every person until she finally has the complete picture of what happened in 1916, as well as plenty of other juicy family secrets. Read this one just for the fun of it, and for the great ambiance. It almost has a Gothic feel to it at times, except that it's set in a different time period and is not quite so sinister.

  • Dale Harcombe
    2019-03-27 01:08

    Robert Goddard is one of those writers who knows how to tell a story. I have read a number of his books over the years. This is one of his earlier novels which I bought for my husband, but one day when I was desperate for a good read, I picked it up. Goddard is one writer we both agree on. The story sucked me right in from the first line of the prologue. ’This is the day and this the place where a dream turns a corner and a secret is told.’ Who could resist an opening like that? I sure couldn’t! Months after her husband dies, 70 year old Leonora sets off for France with her daughter Penelope. It is a time for secrets to be revealed about her family and explanations given. But even Leonora is unprepared for some of the discoveries she makes, starting from the first one at the Thiepval monument. Given the date, it appears Captain John Hallows cannot possibly have been her real father. Or is she missing something? Yes, quite a lot as it turns out. This story is one of people who are not always what they seem. It has lots of twists and turns, some I figured out in advance. Others I did not as the story moves through World War 1 and into the 1970s. There are tensions and evil going on, as well as more than one secret. If you like mysteries with a historical background and plenty of suspense as you try and follow the clues laid like a trail of breadcrumbs, you should enjoy this as I did.

  • Angela Knipe
    2019-04-01 02:52

    Possibly my most favorite contemporary author is Robert Goddard, a British mystery writer. He is a master storyteller and provides not only a twist at the end of the tale but keeps you twisting the whole way Goddard’s novels are spellbinding. He is fabulous at developing, sympathetic characters and his heroes are often unlikely, slightly downtrodden but very real people you can relate to. Goddard studied History at Cambridge and worked as a journalist before becoming a novelist and many of his books have a historical connection and are very well researched. Goddard’s stories are often intricately woven tales of the past and the present, threaded with secrets and conspiracy and he is adept at painting a grand picture with beautiful language sometimes sweeping across several generations. I have been reading Goddard’s books since he first published Past Caring in 1986 and have been reading them more or less as they arrive ever since.

  • Diane Lynn
    2019-04-13 06:07

    Oh so many secrets! A very good mystery and even when you think all is revealed, you turn a corner and find that perhaps not all is as it seems. Takes place from about 1916-1970.

  • Anna
    2019-04-17 03:55

    Oh what a tangled web we weave.....I really liked this, a part 'who's the daddy?' and part 'who's the killer?' mystery which starts during WWI and slowly unravels over the next seventy years. After the first few chapters I rather smugly thought I'd worked out what had happened, but all my theories were unceremoniously dumped by the wayside as one by one by all the murky secrets and lies of this dysfunctional family were revealed. Although I was a little disappointed that (view spoiler)[wicked Olivia wasn't quite as wicked as I'd hoped (hide spoiler)], the twists and turns kept me guessing right till the end, and the references to the Thiepval Memorial for the Missing at Somme were very poignant.Thank for the rec, Diane Lynn :-)

  • Darrell Delamaide
    2019-03-29 22:40

    It is difficult to be so subtle and so dazzling at the same time, but Robert Goddard pulls it off in this mesmerizing novel. Once again, Goddard's mastery of the language alone makes the book a joy to read, and confirms my feeling that British writers -- Simon Mawer and Rennie Airth are other examples -- have an edge over us Americans when it comes to language. Chaucer and Shakespeare are lurking in their descriptions, their dialogue.In Pale Battalions also has a finely crafted plot. It is part murder mystery, but so much more than that. It deals with World War I and the hopelessness and futility of that conflict. But the war itself is just a backdrop for a study in how challenging trust and integrity can be, how easily we are susceptible to corruption, and how difficult it is to be tolerant of our own failings and the flaws of others. Although the tribulations of the family of Lord Powerstock are particularly dramatic, the impact on the family members is not so different from the more mundane trials that all of us have experienced in family life. The secrets and the lies that follow through the generations are told here, whereas most of us may never be aware of the hidden events in our family trees.When he is given leave to convalesce for a wound sustained in the Somme, Tom Franklin goes to stay with the family of his friend and commander, John Hallows, who was reported killed in action earlier. He falls in love with Hallows' wife, Leonora, who seems caught up in a web of blackmail and who surprisingly has become pregnant shortly after her husband's death. The conniving of Leonora's step-mother-in-law and an American adventurer intent on gaining control of the estate set Franklin and Leonora both fateful journeys that do not have happy endings.Their are further twists and turns as the anonymity imposed by the war leads to a succession of mistaken identities and past failings of family members have consequences in succeeding generations. Goddard contrives to have a number of first person narrators tell the story, and not all of them are reliable. He slowly draws back the veils revealing a new dimension of truth to a picture we thought we had figured out, right down to the last pages with a final, surprising twist.Reading this often tragic tale, you cannot keep your same certitudes about what constitutes courage or cowardice, or even right or wrong. Can you combat evil only with good, or must it be fought in kind?The story stretches over four generations so many of the main characters are dead by the end. This lends their story a fatalistic perspective -- in the end, what really mattered in their lives? There is the hope that Leonora's daughter, another Leonora, and her daughter, Penelope, have grown in character from the revelations about their family history. The same may be true for us as readers.

  • Dem
    2019-04-22 03:02

    I had mixed feelings about this book. It was not what I had expected. It is a murder mystery with lots of twists and turns.I found the first 150 pages of the book a struggle and many times I thought I would just put it down but reading the other reviews of the book helped me continue on to the end.This is a murder mystery set within a family home which takes place around the first world war. I found this book lacking as I had expected more war references and think that Goddard shied away from the historical side of things which I needed in order for this book to work, but this was not what the book was about and while the murder mystery side of the book is well written it is a little predictable and at times I found it rambled on quite a bit. I also found the writing style did not work for me as they story is recounted from one person to another and just did not have enough punch for me. I did find the second half of the book does pick up pace and is quite readable but for me it was a little too late.I found the characters really annoying and quite badly developed and to be honest by the end was not really bothered who had actually "DONE IT"I would have rated this book 2.5 stars.

  • CLM
    2019-04-14 23:47

    I came across Goddard in my first publishing job before he was published in the US, and was instantly entranced. Every word is so carefully chosen and every scene so deliberately set - it requires close attention not to miss the clues he drops along the way, and his plots are so intricate it is not always easy to stay caught up but it is well worth the effort!

  • Jane
    2019-04-15 05:44

    Wow, what a tight plot: one of the best I've ever read in a mystery! Setting is the 20th century; the story takes us from the First World War to the 1970s, from the muddy fields and war monument "Missing of the Somme" of France and another monument in Belgium to all different locations in Britain: the estate of a Lord Powerstock, Meongate, from Portsmouth, Isle of Wight, Cornwall, to London. The story opens as Leonora Galloway takes her daughter, Penelope, to the Somme monument. Leonora wishes to find out the truth about her parents; she has been overshadowed by the stigma of illegitimacy all her life. World War I overshadows everything in the novel. It consists of one narrative after the other interspersed with Leonora's actions furthering the plot; Leonora tells her daughter [and us] of her growing-up years at the estate and a still-unsolved murder and also a suicide. A mysterious veteran under an assumed name visits her years later and tells her of serving with her husband in France and their friendship. Leonora traces out the truth of his story for herself. There are many unexpected plot twists until the truth is finally revealed. I believe this author is called 'master of the twist' or something similar; this book was absolutely gripping, with believable characters. There were lies, deceptions, blackmail along the way. The novel was very well written and the plot was amazing. "When you see millions of the mouthless deadAcross your dreams in pale battalions go,Say not soft things as other men have said,That you'll remember. For you need not so.Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they knowIt is not curses heaped on each gashed head?Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.Say only this, "They are dead." Then add thereto,"Yet many a better one has died before."Then, scanning all the o'ercrowded mass, should youPerceive one face that you loved heretofore,It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.Great death has made all his for evermore."Charles SorleyWorld War I war poet

  • Jeremy
    2019-04-21 03:50

    I’ve read that some people believe the early Robert Goddard books superior to the later ones and, having found Robert Goddard through “Into the Blue” I was very keen to read “In Pale Battalions” as this is his second book, written in 1988. I have to say I do agree with the comment, but not for the reasons that others cite. The quality of the writing in “In Pale Battalions” is quite beautiful and the construction of the story extremely clever. That this is only Goddard’s second novel is quite amazing – he shows an exquisite skill with the English language which makes reading this book a joy just for reading it. I would agree that the latest novels seem to have dispensed with the quality of prose, being substituted for a more “Bournesque” speed of narrative but that just makes those novels different.I think Goddard put a lot of himself and his family into this novel, his dedication being to Frederick John Goddard – missing presumed killed in action, Ypres, Belgium 27th April 1915. And, having spent a while working in the Somme Valley, the names of the towns do mean something to me as well.This story takes the Great War and shows how it penetrated every walk of life and every strata of society in some way or other. Captain, The Right Honourable John Halllows is the missing presumed dead of this story but the question is, is he dead or has he deserted? And why did he ask his good friend Lieutenant Franklin to go to the family home, Meongate, and look in on his wife, Leonora, and Lord and Lady Powerstock? What sort of strange liaison and what intrigue involved the frequent visitor, the American Mompesson, with Lady Powerstock and Leonora? What is the connection between Hallows’ mother and the fledgling workers rights movement and who is the strange person called Willis?When the tale resolves itself, and it does so right at the very end of the story, the resolution is so obvious and simple you find yourself asking how you missed that when you read it 300 pages earlier. But that is the beauty of Goddard. The answers are always there but you don’t know what question to ask until it is obvious. A great read.

  • Penny
    2019-04-23 02:51

    Another engrossing read from Goddard. As is often the case this is a convoluted, psychological slow-burn book! It is not technically crime or a thriller although it has elements of both.In this one we follow Franklin a young soldier from WW1 who gets injured and is sent to convalesce at the large estate of his commanding officer who has just been killed in the trenches. The widow is obviously distressed but is also afraid, the father is detached and seems to ignore the evil going on in his house and a young shell-shocked officer knows more than he should.Franklin slowly unfolds a story of deception and depravity and the final outcome is not revealed until the very end of the book.If you like a book that builds with tension and is more psychological than violent this is for you!

  • Eleanor
    2019-04-05 05:40

    Terrific, layered story with a murder mystery within it, but so much more going on. I'll be looking for other books by Robert Goddard after enjoying this one so much.

  • Rosario (
    2019-04-25 21:43

    In Pale Battalions starts with two women, mother and daughter, visiting a 1st World War grave in northern France. The mother, Leonora, points out the date on her own father's gravestone. It indicates he couldn't actually have been her father. And so the story begins, starting with the story of Leonora's life, growing up with her villainous step-grandmother, who makes the girl's doubtful parentage clear and her life hell. It's clear to Leonora that there's some sort of mystery surrounding the circumstances of her birth, but it's only years later that an old soldier friend of her father's approaches her and tells her the whole story about what happened at Meongate, the family pile, around the time when Leonora was born.It's a complex, melodramatic story, full of twists and turns, but I had too many issues with it to really enjoy it. My main issue, I think, was that the type of plot it was: one of my least favourites. It felt like a steamy, seamy soap opera/family saga, Dynasty on steroids, full of villainous characters who are evil purely because they're evil (the grandmother, Olivia, I found particularly unbelievable). The characters are all either horrendous or weak and rather stupid, and I found it very hard to give a fig about them and their fates. Most of the book is told in flashback, as Leonora tells her daughter her story, which, in a sort of nested fashion, includes a long section in the middle narrated by her father's friend, Tom Franklin. Tom is the person who reveals the dramatic events that went on in Meongate in 1916, and the first to tell Leonora about her mother, who'd been dismissed by evil Olivia as a whore. Tom is, to put it mildly, quite the piece of work. The problem is that I think he's meant to come across as a nice guy who stumbles upon a fraught situation and feels a responsibility to help his old friend's wife. Instead, I'm afraid he came across as a Nice Guy™. His reaction to Leonora's mother (also called Leonora) when she's basically screaming for help is classic. Instead of actually helping, even though he knows the guy who's clearly threatening her must have something on her, and is obviously coercing her into something, the horrible waste of space just mopes about how treacherous she is and how she had the chance to be with a nice guy like him but instead she's chosen to become involved with this awful man. Argh!! I just could NOT forgive that for the rest of the book, and hoped he'd die. He's also incredibly STUPID. If you've read this, I'm talking, for instance, about Cheriton's letter. Oh, for fuck's sake! He fucking knows Olivia is evil, and still hands her the letter! And then acts all surprised at her actions! And Leonora I wanted to shake and slap, as well. Just actually speak, woman, instead of playing games, hoping that someone will follow all your clues, reach all the right conclusions and do what you want them to do. If you've read this, I'm talking about her stunt with the telescope. Gah! Guess you can tell the characters annoyed me? They annoyed me so much that what could have been quite a satisfying mystery, with lots of twists and turns, and big final revelations, didn't get much of a reaction. Plus, I could pretty much see most of the twists coming.I also had issues with the way the story was told, supposedly as Leonora speaking to her daughter, and then Tom Franklin speaking to Leonora. It was a device that often felt unbelievable, as several times the narrator would tell the person listening details that I found very difficult to believe they would tell (mainly when speaking of issues with sexual content). Would Franklin really have told Leonora, whom he'd never meant before, exactly how a certain woman´s breast felt like when he cupped it? Really? Seriously!So, not a huge success, I'm afraid. Just not my cup of tea. On the other hand, I reckon my mother would love it, so I've sent it on to her!MY GRADE: A C-.

  • Barbara
    2019-04-20 00:42

    This was a very good mystery--a very good work of historical fiction--and a very good melodrama. It was a page turner, although you can turn the page slowly, but you still want to see what happens next! Death and romance and evil set against the background of World War I make this book an excellent choice for those who want to step back to the time when books were read slowly! It is one of the few books where I not only wanted to see what occurs on the next page but had to go back a few pages and digest what I think occurred. After I finished the book, I would have loved to discuss it with someone to affirm what I think the ending was about! You'll see. Read it and then let me know what you think was disclosed on those final pages!

  • Bettie☯
    2019-04-13 21:42

    Bettie's Books

  • Lucy Barnhouse
    2019-03-28 01:41

    Despite its sensationalist plot, this book felt very bloodless to me. Its characters, pawn-like, act with an almost somnolent fatalism. The hovering omniscience of the narrator occasionally breaks out into asides. There is a Good Woman and a Bad Woman. I'm sure that a not-insignificant factor in my disappointment in this very plot-driven novel is that, in many ways, it's the kind of thing I *should* like, and do like. I'm a sucker for books about the unreliability of narrative and the power of secrets and memory and history. The English Patient, Atonement, The Stranger's Child, The Children's Book, The Sense of an Ending, On Chesil Beach... my appetite for these things is insatiable. In Pale Battalions ticks a lot of familiar boxes; it even has a country house in physical and moral decline. I don't mind middlebrow sensationalism either (I own first editions of both Random Harvest and Mrs. Miniver.) This book is my kind of thing. But I found myself slogging painfully through it.

  • Lectrice Hérétique
    2019-04-03 01:46

    Ce livre m’a donné envie de lire un Wilkie Collins. Ça en dit long. J’ai liquidé ce gros pavé en une journée et une petite soirée. La 4e ne ment pas, n’exagère pas. L’histoire est passionnante, l’intrigue ficelée à l’anglaise, avec de multiples rebondissements parfaitement dosés et organisés, je confirme l’aspect littéralement hypnotique du roman. Impossible de rester trop longtemps sans savoir le fin mot de l’histoire.La première et principale narratrice relate à sa fille le secret de sa naissance, en commençant par son enfance, et les multiples secrets qui l’ont entourée. Parvenue à l’âge adulte, Leonora fait de nouvelles découvertes concernant les mois précédant sa naissance, et le récit change alors de voix. Un nouveau narrateur prend le relais, et nous dévoile un autre pan de la famille de Leonora. Une construction habile, qui enrichit un récit très riche. L’écriture est magnifique, le style impeccable et colle parfaitement à l’époque et au contexte. L’arrière-plan historique ajoute à la crédibilité d’un ensemble déjà solide et bien construit. Les personnages sont variés, certains sont très attachants, d’autres répugnants et malfaisants. Chaque protagoniste est fouillé autant que possible, les motivations de chacun sont souvent obscures.L’histoire est très touffue comme je les aime, composée de très nombreux recoupements, racontée par plusieurs points de vue.Le dénouement est à tomber raide, car l’auteur n’a pas épuisé sont stock de révélations et nous en réserve une bien belle pour la dernière page. J’avoue que personnellement, je n’ai pas vu grand-chose venir au cours de la lecture, à part un élément (capital, certes), mais le dénouement m’a vraiment bluffée.Le roman n’aurait pu être qu’excellent sans cette fin tellement émouvante et que je n’ai pas vue venir. Là, j’en suis au GROS coup de cœur. Snif.

  • DL
    2019-03-31 22:39

    This was not the book I expected. It wasn't a war story or about soldiers except incidentally. It was a sordid story about sordid people told in a convoluted manner by multiple unreliable narrators, all with the same voice. I wanted to toss it to the side at multiple points during the first 100 pages but ended up continuing after reading the glowing reviews. I'll just add them to the long list of confusing shit that constituted this read.

  • Lori Baldi
    2019-04-09 03:06

    The very best book. In the world. This book just appealed to me when I found it in the library in the late 1980s. The story sounded good and when I read it I was blown out of the water by the story. The writing appeals to me the way that layers are formed on an onion. Fascinating story. Fantastic writing. Perfection in writing.

  • Anna Elliott
    2019-04-11 22:53

    I was gripped from the tantalizing opening line from the prologue of this book:"This is the day and this the place where a dream turns a corner and a secret is told."Read my full review at: http://leftontheshelfbookblog.blogspo...

  • Richard Gardner
    2019-04-24 02:00

    A mystery with many twists and turns. Great read.

  • Deborah O'Regan
    2019-04-11 23:05

    Loved this book...... Just new to Robert Goddard and he does not disappoint ! Great mystery and every time I thought I had it solved another twist came from nowhere.

  • Tracy
    2019-04-19 23:44

    I ended up really enjoying this book - it was stories within stories, with a gothic edge to it, full of secrets and twists, some surprising, some not, but all told with flair.

  • Christine
    2019-04-15 02:57

    A tale of shifting narration set primarily in England during the First World War, this book has everything in it: love, loss, murder, layered alliances, betrayals, surprises, evil relations, multi-generational strife, etc. If I had not at several points wearied of "and now person X tells his/her story in the first person" and wished for a third person narration, I would have given it five stars. It is definitely a page turner with a plot that continues to unfold and shift so as to never stagnate and always has something interesting up its sleeve.

  • Vigdis
    2019-03-28 02:53

    4,5 stars

  • LG
    2019-04-06 23:08

    It’s frightening to think of this, Goddard’s second novel, as a quarter of a century old, but it was indeed published in 1988 – it’s vintage. Its setting is even older, going back to that unforgettable First World War. Poignantly, it takes its title from a sonnet whose author died in 1915, the year Goddard’s own great-uncle was declared missing, presumably killed in action. The book is dedicated to him.And what a fine memorial it is. In Pale Battalions confirms Goddard’s talent for the three essential elements of a murder mystery: lively characters, brisk pacing, and watertight plotting. Although Lieutenant Tom Franklin and the virtuous Leonora Hallows are fairly colorless, other characters – especially the villains of the piece – satisfied my requirements for mischief and vice. Yet villain is the wrong word, since the majority of the characters belong in a vast no man’s land between pure-of-heart and unrepentant scoundrel.To balance out this complexity, Goddard streamlines his narrative. The focus of the novel’s prologue and epilogue is Leonora Galloway, who was named after her mother. This is the Leonora who couldn’t possibly be her father’s daughter, since he was killed the year before she was born. This meant Lord Powerstock was not her grandfather, which was why, as a child, she had to suffer the hatred of Lady Powerstock, her step-grandmother.Leonora tells her story to her own daughter, Penelope, in Part One, where Goddard switches to a first-person perspective. This he does so seamlessly that I didn’t bat an eyelid at the next part, even though it’s narrated by a completely new character. Goddard goes on to embed first-person narratives inside each other, like so many Russian dolls, as The Truth behind Leonora’s illegitimacy fragments into a multiplicity of versions of truth.In Goddard’s hands, this narrative device worked a charm. Every section was of a piece with the previous one, and who the storyteller was ceased to matter halfway through. A stretch though some were, I wanted to follow the thread every character wove into the tangled web, right to the twisty end – and Goddard takes us there. It’s old-school craftsmanship, and it’s rare. It’s the reason my next book will be another of his mysteries. It’s probably one reason Random House just published his 24th.

  • Thom Swennes
    2019-04-16 22:42

    Everyone has a few skeletons hidden in their closets but Leonora Galloway-Hallows has a whole cemetery behind those doors. Born and raised in a well to do family and married an aristocratic man. After the marriage she lived in the grand estate of Meongate in 1917 where she was surrounded by hostile or indifferent people. Her father, Captain John Hallows was killed in the Battle at the Somme and her mother died shortly after her birth. Leonora’s grandfather, Lord Powerstock and his second wife Lady Powerstock were indifferent and hostile to their young granddaughter. Life, in general, was sad and depressing for young Leonora and as time passed it only got worse. This story is written in the early twentieth century English style with the addition of the more modern elements of graphic nudity and insinuated sexuality. The usual verbiage that is often poetical and occasionally confusing is absent in this contemporary work, making it a very engrossing and readable prose. A murder is committed and in true Doylian fashion, deductions are made and remade with little help of forensic science. The suspense and plot develop as an approaching locomotive. You see it as a dot in the distance and can only rely on the assumption that the iron tracks at your feet must mean that the dot is the train you feel sure will arrive shortly. As time passes and the story continues, the plot develops and you are soon moved as with the accompanying winds of a speeding train. With In Pale Battalions, Robert Goddard has created a masterpiece in the old style. It is a story written in such a way that is sure to please any turn of the century literature lover.

  • Robert
    2019-03-27 00:02

    This is another superb book by Goddard. His books are invariably filled with unnexpected plot twists -- though I confess that I anticipated the final twist long before it came. But this one has more than most. Some may find the use of multiple first person narrative confusing. With a less skilled story teller, I surely would. And closer study may reveal some contradictions in the narrative as a consequence of that means of development. But it worked very well with me.I do recommend that you not get too deeply into a Goddard novel unless you have half a day to spare. You reach a point where there is no putting them down.The characters are fascinating and their development convincing. The one feature that I found a bit off-putting with Goddard's novels is the completely irrational, foolish behavior that he attributes to his central characters on the basis of their Dante-like passion.