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Painting The Darkness

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  815 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
On a mild autumn afternoon in 1882, William Trenchard sits smoking his pipe in the garden of his comfortable family home. When the creak of the garden gate heralds the arrival of an unexpected stranger, he is puzzled but not alarmed. He cannot know the destruction this man will wreak on all he holds most dear.

The stranger announces himself as James Norton, but claims he is
Paperback, 608 pages
Published May 25th 1990 by Corgi (first published September 1st 1989)
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Jan 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: a-good-mystery
Goddard creates what is, for me, the perfect take-me-away fiction, combining sufficient character development, extremely complicated/interesting plot, and a historical background that's usually pretty informative. I've been on a spree with his novels lately. This one is about a guy who supposedly committed suicide in the 1870's who shows up 11 years later and is trying to prove that he is who he says he is. Definitely lots of twists and turns. If I had to compare Goddard to someone, I'd say Ruth ...more
Bryan Higgs
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, mystery
Robert Goddard's novels continue to confound me: I'm not sure what attracts me to them, but attract me, they do! I always hated history in high school; it was always kings, queens, battles, wars, dates -- all the stuff that was boring and irrelevant to a teenage boy. I'm not one who enjoys historical drama of the sort that the BBC is always praised for, because I seem to be more sensitive to the inequities of the British class system than most -- even those, who, like me, spent their formative y ...more
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned....... And there is the key to this whole tale.
William Trenchard is a successful man and happily married to Constance and with a lovely daughter. Constance was to be married to another but he abandoned her (at the alter as it were) and disappeared, declared dead after 7 years missing. So, was the stranger at the Trenchard gate the disappeared James Davenall? Constance thought so and this sent her into an emotional turmoil. The Davenall family were unequivocal
Jul 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, favorites
Exciting with the usual plot twists and multiple lines of character development of which Goddard is a master. As usual, the ending was less than satisfying -- but I'm never sure whether it's the book that disappoints me or the truth he makes me aware of. As with a couple of other novels by him that I've read, this one is set in an earlier century (the 19th) and makes excellent use of the historical context.
Amber Stumpf
Jul 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Love the plot twists. Thought I had it figured out---several times.
Joe Stamber
Another historical mystery epic from a master of the genre. After reading 4 of his books, I'm pretty sure that Goddard is more comfortable writing of bygone times; like many authors who existed in the periods his tales spend a lot of time in (or all the time in this case), Goddard is light on characterisation but lavish on story and setting. That's not a criticism, although it won't be to everyone's liking.

Goddard likes to flit between characters and time periods as his tales unfold, initially t
Feb 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes historical mysteries
Recommended to Mary by: Library Book Sale
I just finished reading Painting the Darkness by Robert Goddard. It's bit of an involved plot, but I'll try to explain it. One mild autumn day in 1882, William Trenchard sits smoking his pipe in his family home. When a stranger approaches him, he is puzzled but not overly worried. Trenchard cannot know what havoc will be wrought on his life and all he holds dear.

The stranger announces he is James Norton - but is, in reality Sir James Davenell - former fiance of Trenchard's wife, Constance. He di
Jan 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is my second Goddard - both books I have listened to the audio versions.
These books are in many ways unique to Goddard in that they are cross-genre often involving intrigue, treachery, murder, lies and deceit, with some history, politics and romance thrown in!

This one follows the story of a young couple who have been married several years when the earlier fiancee of the wife returns having previously apparently committed suicide. The 'pretender' attempts to prove his identity but his rich a
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
Probably my least favourite Goddard book so far, this suffers from interminable length, a lack of sympathetic characters and a dearth of the great twists we have come to expect from this writer. Special mention must be made of the worst-written female characters in his books; most of them are supposedly so seductive and/or beautiful they drive men to murder, rape and doom-laden betrayal but come across as vapid and personality-free on the page. The period atmosphere and convincing dialogue goes ...more
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The first of Goddard's I have read and by far the best. Gripping, dark, mysteroius. A must read!
Sep 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
As I recall, yet another nefarious Constance character, and a completely mesmerizing book from a talented author...
Elizabeth Elwood
Nov 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I’m a great fan of Robert Goddard’s books, but every so often he produces a story that has characters who behave in ways that stretch my credibility to the limit. Painting the Darkness is such an extreme tale of calculated villainy that it borders on the melodramatic, and the ultimate resolution is hard to credit, given the way the characters have behaved earlier in the book. The book’s theme is one that is always intriguing. Like Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar, the plot revolves around a man claim ...more
Nancy Day
Jun 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
This novel has a bit of a documentary-feel. Its tone mimics the Victorian England in which it's set, but not in an archaic, stilted way. Having an abundant vocabulary seems to be a trait of good English novelists, and this one is definitely no exception. The prose is very well crafted, almost in the style of George Eliot and her contemporaries (bit less wordy, suited to modern tastes). The characters are believable and some are sympathetic; we understand what's brought them to be who they are, a ...more
Despite all the clever twists and turns, all the tight plotting, all the desire to find out what came next, this book left me with a hollow feeling at the end. Why? In a word: characterization. Or rather, lack thereof. Robert Goddard is to plot what the Swiss are (or were) to watches: a master. But his characters are completely lacking in human dimension, idiosyncrasy, contradiction, life. They are there to serve the story, nothing more. You have the upstanding Victorian heroine, the elusive he ...more
Dave Fellows
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
5/5 stars. It's just as well that this book starts with a family tree of the overly complicated Davenall family, because if you're anything like me you'll find yourself referring to it a few times during the nigh-on 600 pages of this story. Every one of a large cast plays their part in one of Goddard's best works. His later stuff, by comparison, is atrocious. This was written way back when he was still fairly new on the scene, only a couple of years into his long career, and the work he put into ...more
May 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Painting the Darkness' is a novel about identity and family, set in the late Victorian period. The premise is simple, and very compelling: a man, James Davenall, who everyone thought was dead, suddenly reappears after eleven years, surprising his family and especially the girl who had once planned to marry him, Constance Trenchard. Of course her new husband, Willian Trenchard, instantly distrusts the prodigal son, and sets out to prove that he is a fraud. His family refuse to recognise him, as d ...more
Feb 01, 2016 rated it liked it
More like 3.5 stars. The first third of this book was pretty slow, but I’m not really a fan of legal dramas. Too much just standing around and talking for me. But the book eventually picked up, focusing more on some of the psychological aspects surrounding missing person cases. I never really knew who to root for, and every time I felt close to figuring things out, Goddard threw in a new curveball that disproved my theories and took the plot in an entirely new direction.

While the ending was logi
Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This author and JoJo Moyes both have new books that deal with WWI. Since neither was available from the library, I turned to their older titles.

Goddard's book was superb. A bit slow to start but then mesmerizing. A mystery that begins when a young man returns to his family eleven years after he supposedly took his own life. Why he committed suicide was never known and is only the first of dozens of twists and turns this story takes. His mother and brother refuse to accept him as the long lost he
Barbara Guner
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my first Robert Goddard book ..... and I am hooked. He writes (dozens!) of mystery who-dunnit type books and this one had me gripped from the start. It got better and better. There are characters plots and twists. This one is set in Victorian England and Sir James Davenall has been presumed dead for 11 years, a man claiming his identity appears, throwing the lives of his family and former fiancee into confusion. YOu do not know if James is James until the very end! Easy great holiday rea ...more
May 07, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The "Return of Martin Guerre" with insufferable Victorian English twits instead of grubby French medieval peasants.

The audiobook is a treat for fans of Foyle's War as it is narrated by the actor who plays Foyle.

Otherwise this was not so great. None of the characters is likable. And the plot just requires too much suspension of disbelief.

The Return of Martin Guerre by Natalie Zemon Davis
Karen Garrison
Jun 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Intricate unusually interesting novel of a family mystery that becomes a courtroom drama and a grave matter of importance for several people.
I didn't expect to love this book..
However I became fascinated- reading and reading whenever I found any time at all.
The character deveopment is excellent.. the chacters feeling more real to me than in any present day stories. The story line as described in the synopsis does it no justice.
There is much more depth, feeling and meaning to the actual story
Sep 10, 2013 rated it liked it
This was just ok read, mainly because the pace of the book is slow, it took me forever to read, i could easily put the book down and read something else in between and then get back to this book.This book would have been better at 400 pages the 590 pages i had to read. I know this is one of his best sellers, and the story is good, but the reveal took to long. I find that Robert Goddard books are a hit and miss for me. Some were good, others i just could not get into. i will still try some others ...more
May 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
Painful to write but there's an okay Goddard novel hidden inside these bloated pages. Note: an 'okay' novel not a 'great' Goddard novel. The typical twist which pulls the reader into the narrative happens 250 pages in; where normally Goddard would drop it in the first 50 pages. I believe the book's fault lies with the lack of a true protagonist; this novel bounces around across multiple characters, none of whom connect as sympathetic or interesting individuals.
Dec 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
We went into the bookstore because I needed something to read while on vacation. The book I had taken with me was garbage, even though I did finish it. So I couldn't find anything that looked remotely interesting that I hadn't already read. Christopher grabs this paperback and says how about this one. 590 pages later and it took me forever and I still didn't have everything figured out by the ending. I may need to read more by Robert Goddard.....
Удивительно читабельный трэш, особенно если дочитать до середины, а потом бросить. Будет казаться, что автор-райский ангел. Хорошо держит интригу, даже сочувствуешь той куче малоприятных персонажей, которая у него ходит в главных героях.
В конце все, как водится, испорчено инцестом, что уже совсем не смешно. Впрочем, от викторианской эпохи там только дата. 1882 год, а телефон вовсю есть не только у младшего партнера крупной лондонской фирмы, но и у сельского поверенного где-то под Батом.
Beverly Carmichael
Jul 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
I had a hard time getting into this book. There were far too many characters and changes of time period. I had to make a list of the characters to figure out who was who. I read it almost to the end because the book club I lead at my library had chosen it. But at some point, it was pointless for me to continue. That said, most of the people in my book club loved the book so I will recommend it to others.
Aug 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The unraveling of this late 1800s London story is a veritable Gordian knot. There were enough unexpected twists, turns, and revelations that I had to closely keep up with the characters in order to keep up with the plot. And it was intriguing enough that I've read way into the night and have put jobs that need doing aside. I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep now that I know what caused it all. It is somewhat reminiscent of Anne Perry's work but, perhaps, even more intricate.
May 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Well written, but not as engaging as some other Robert Goddard books I had read/listened to. (I like audio books to listen to while I'm doing laundry or other mindless tasks). It was more engaging later in the book. My husband and I had started listening to this on one a road trip together and he didn't end up finishing because he found himself tuning it out. I also found myself tuning out a few parts, but I finished and liked it over all.
Cook Memorial Public Library
Every Goddard book is unexpected – a puzzle with twists and turns. In this novel, a stranger comes to town claiming he is a man who died eleven years earlier.

Recommended by Connie

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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.
More about Robert Goddard...

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