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In Pale Battalions

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,538 Ratings  ·  178 Reviews
Six months after her husband's sudden death, Leonora Galloway sets off for a holiday in Paris with her daughter Penelope. At last the time has come when secrets can be shared and explanations begin... Their journey starts with an unscheduled stop at the imposing Thiepval Memorial to the dead of the Battle of the Somme near Amiens. Amongst those commemorated is Leonora's fa ...more
Paperback, 393 pages
Published May 19th 1989 by Corgi (first published January 1st 1988)
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In Pale Battalions by Robert GoddardPast Caring by Robert GoddardInto the Blue by Robert GoddardClosed Circle by Robert GoddardPainting The Darkness by Robert Goddard
Best Robert Goddard Books
1st out of 27 books — 40 voters
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha ChristieThe Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan DoyleAnd Then There Were None by Agatha ChristieThe Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha ChristieThe Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Best British Crime/Mystery Fiction
171st out of 860 books — 998 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,661)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Aug 15, 2012 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing
Then, scanning all the o'ercrowded mass, should you
Perceive 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 WWI

In 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
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 matt
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Mar 17, 2009 Jeanette "Astute Crabbist" rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mystery lovers
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
Angela Knipe
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 b ...more
Diane Lynn
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.
Jan 07, 2012 Dem rated it liked it
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 th
Darrell Delamaide
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
Feb 12, 2015 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: Diane Lynn
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)
Sep 27, 2008 CLM rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, uk, 20th-century
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!
Apr 26, 2014 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 t
Mar 08, 2014 Penny rated it really liked it
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
Jun 22, 2015 Barbara rated it really liked it
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 an ...more
Oct 02, 2011 Jeremy rated it really liked it
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 ama ...more
Dec 16, 2015 Ann rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww-i-fiction
What a wonderful, addictive story set in the throes of World War I. It was quite well done on many levels - - and this is coming from someone who almost never reads mysteries. Yes, it is a mystery, but it is so much more. Now I need to get some sleep.......
May 01, 2014 Eleanor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 (
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 cir ...more
Aug 22, 2015 DL rated it it was ok
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
Dec 09, 2011 Lori Baldi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Sep 26, 2014 Anna Elliott rated it it was amazing
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...
Jul 07, 2008 Tracy rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook, kindle
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.
My Inner Shelf
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 naissa
Thom Swennes
Apr 20, 2013 Thom Swennes rated it really liked it
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 La ...more
Jan 04, 2015 LG rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Kate Morton and Agatha Christie
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 ess
Nov 23, 2008 Robert rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
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
Aug 23, 2007 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another page-turner from Goddard. The bulk of the story takes place in World War I-era England, so fans of Hand In Glove will probably get into this one. I prefer his stories set in the present day, or at least where the murder that kicks everything off takes place in the present day... motives in Goddard's stories are always rooted deeply in the past.

If you haven't read a Goddard mystery before, basically everybody in them is a liar. They spend all their time lying to and fro up and down the l
Jul 28, 2009 Heidi rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the plot of this and read the book in two days; I thought it was well-written and evocative of the time it was set in. My one cavil was that the characters did not seem well rounded -- they seemed to exist to push the story along, rather than the other way around. The women were particularly disappointing, particularly the stock villainess of a step-mother, complete with siren looks and impaccable ambition. The 'good' female protagonist was also one dimensional -- noble and perfect. I ...more
Oct 23, 2014 Nossamael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lecture-2014
j'ai eu beaucoup de mal à entrer dans l'histoire mais finalement j'ai été transporté dans les secrets de cette famille!
In Pale Battalions tells the story of the newly widowed Leonora Galloway who sets off, with her daughter Penelope, on a holiday in Paris. The first stop on their journey is the Thiepval Memorial for those who died at the Battle of the Somme during World War I. This is where Leonora's father has been memorialized as one of the WW1 heroes. The memorial lists her father's date of death as April 30, 1916 but Leonora isn't born for another eleven months. She realizes this man can't be her father. Thu ...more
Mar 13, 2015 Kathy rated it really liked it
Some of the most moving stories of war have to do with World War I; at least to me. Certainly not because the wars to follow have been any less brutal or horrifying. Could be because this was supposed to be THE WAR TO END ALL WARS. And the numbers of young men who lost their lives decimating the population of Great Britain.

Pale Battalions, while built into a mystery with the war as a backdrop, still manages to infuse the terror, pain and suffering that an individual can experience when they rea
Louise Marley
Aug 15, 2014 Louise Marley rated it liked it
Stephen King calls this novel "riveting", and the NYT says the plot is "dazzling". Those things, to me, depend very much on believable characterizations, and for me, the book lacked those. The plot is intricate, certainly, but a good bit of it--such as Olivia's unrelenting malevolence--relies on the reader being convinced that the characters would act the way they do. Unfortunately, I wasn't convinced.

On the other hand, the World War I setting and the glimpses into English culture of the time we
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In a writing career spanning more than twenty years, Robert Goddard's novels have been described in many different ways - mystery, thriller, crime, even historical romance. He is the master of the plot twist, a compelling and engrossing storyteller and one of the best known advocates for the traditional virtues of pace, plot and narrative drive.
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