Stiff, archaic dialogue and an overreaching plot that snakes from contemporary England back to the Spanish Civil War makes this lengthy novel of psychological suspense by Goddard ( Debt of Dishonor ) slow going. The action begins with the murder of 85-year-old Beatrix Abberley, canny sister of England's poet-warrior Tristam Abberley, who died a hero in the Spanish Civil War. On Beatrix's death, four packets of letters revealing a predictable hoax, some depressing truths and a treasure buried since the 1930s are mailed to persons unknown. The dead woman's schoolmarmish niece Charlotte Ladram and bumbling Derek Fairfax, upright brother of an ex-con framed for the murder, set themselves to solving the puzzle of these events. With cardboard characters--a womanizing American biographer, mousy Charlotte and her brassy sister-in-law Ursula--and a string of handy coincidences, Goddard, who signals nearly every twist his story takes, delivers a mediocre effort. Paperback rights to Pocket. (Jan.)
Missing links play a most important role in this masterful tale about a murdered British woman whose famous-poet brother died in the Spanish Civil War. Circumstances throw the woman's goddaughter and the accused killer's brother together on a quest for 50-year-old family secrets that takes them back to Spain. Searching for a batch of legendary letters, they encounter the poet's charmingly deceptive biographer, a curmudgeonly compatriot long thought dead, and several nasty thugs. Goddard delivers complex adventure, emotional insight, and finely wrought prose. Highly recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/92.