Robert Goddard, “Play to the End”

This started out well. The narrator, Toby Flood, is a middling-successful actor starring in a revival of a lesser-known Joe Orton play in Brighton, England. For reasons Goddard never makes entirely clear, he’s talking into a tape recorder, which I was willing to go along with. At first the plot seems to be intertwined with the play itself, which is the kind of clever-boots touch I appreciate, and the first few characters we meet are unusual on the surface.

Alas, the surface is where the whole story stays. Flood is still in love with his about-to-be-ex-wife Jenny, who doesn’t amount to more than a female figure whom Goddard occasionally wheels onto the scene to provide Toby with some motivation. She’s about to marry the rich, handsome industrialist Roger Colborn, but Toby soon finds himself investigating nasty tales of Roger’s past…  Too tedious. There’s a massive Polish drug dealer with pockmarked skin (seriously) and a locked attic in a country house…  Worst of all, perhaps, is that Toby himself is so dim. I can appreciate the entertainment value in having the audience catch onto plot points before the narrator does, but this guy make so many bad choices so often that you don’t care much, by the end, if he goes off the cliff at Beachy Head or not. Only, of course, he’s telling the story. So you know he survives, and gets reunited with his tape recorder. As well as the wife, but the tape recorder seems more important.

About carolwallace

I spend most of my time writing and reading. Most recent publications: the reissue of "To Marry an English Lord,"one of the inspirations for "Downton Abbey," and the historical novel "Leaving Van Gogh." I am too cranky to belong to a book group but I love the book-blogging community.
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3 Responses to Robert Goddard, “Play to the End”

  1. Nancy says:

    I loved this review – I liked Robert Goddard’s first few books, written in the 1980s, I think, but I will no longer read them because they are almost insulting in their formulaic approach to telling a scary story. I bet that Dominic will read this anyway, though – he is so loyal, even to a bad writer.

  2. carolwallace says:

    Yes, I thought I remembered that he was a friend of Dominic’s, but then I thought maybe it was the guy who wrote “Enigma,” about Bletchley Park, which was a much better book. He’s just cranking them out too fast — but it’s not your kind of thing anyway.

    • Nancy says:

      You’re right, it is Robert Harris who is Dominic’s friend from university, but Dominic is loyal even to unknown writers whom he has never met! x

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