It is a golden evening of high summer in July 1990. Robin Timariot has set out that morning on what he has planned as a six-day tramp along part of Offa's Dyke. At the close of his first day's walk he encounters an elegant middle-aged woman who seems strangely out of place among the sheep and gorse of Hergest Ridge. They exchange only a few words of conversation, but their talk is enigmatic -- and unforgettable. A few days later, at the end of his walk, Timariot returns home to learn from the newspapers that, just a few hours after their meeting, the woman, whose name was Louise Paxton, was raped and then murdered, along with an artist, Oscar Bantock, who lived near by.
A man is swiftly charged and convicted of the crime, but a string of inexplicable events begins to convince Timariot -- and others -- that all is not what it seems. Timariot, fascinated by Louise Paxton's memory, is drawn irresistibly into the complex motives and relationships of her family and friends, searching against his better judgement for the secret of what really happened on the day she died.
The closer he gets to the truth, the more hideous and uncertain it seems to be. And far too late he realizes that it may threaten many powerful people. So much so that anybody who uncovers it is unlikely to be allowed to live.
Goddard's excellent line of British psychological thrillers gets its long-deserved christening from an American publisher with this novel, to be released simultaneously with Into the Blue as part of a six-book relaunch. The plot springs from a chance encounter between English businessman Robin Timariot and Lady Louise Paxton, who meet briefly while hiking one day near Wales in July of 1990. Hours later, Paxton is found, raped and strangled, in a nearby cottage. Over the next several months and, eventually, years, Timariot is steadily drawn to the case. He watches as a local drifter is convicted of the murder, and the Paxton family slowly disintegrates into bitter rivalries, suicides and tensions caused by the crime's scandalous nature. Meanwhile, Timariot, heir to an old-line cricket bat manufacturing company, must navigate his own internecine family squabbles fueled by the company's lagging position in the marketplace. Goddard writes in measured, graceful strokes that seductively charm the reader first with an amicable grip, then with an inexorable clench. As with many of his 16 novels, Goddard's plotting is an elegant mix of secrets, deceits and slowly unfolding horrors. His characters, curiously one-dimensional on first inspection, quickly turn into accordions of personality and behavior.