Robert Goddard is no stranger to writing, his latest novel “Blood Count” – to be published by Bantam Press on the 31st March in the UK – marks his twenty second novel in what has become a highly distinguished and successful career.
First published in 1986 with the bestselling “Past Caring”, Goddard is no stranger to the Sunday Times bestseller list with his last eight novels all appearing on the list. In his latest novel “Blood Count” a surgeon fights to protect everything and everyone he holds dear as he comes face to face with a Serbian warlord.
“Blood Count” is my first introduction to the author’s work and if this gripping title is anything to go by then I for one will have to cast my beady eye on his back catalogue when time allows. The novel takes us on an intriguing journey of discovery, revenge and guile following the protagonist in and around a number of countries that include Argentina, Serbia, Switzerland and Italy.
The narrative is powerful and well thought out – Goddard wrapping up the book in an intelligent and plausible manner leaving no stone unturned – with hardly a sedentary moment in the book, Goddard writes at a frenetic pace that doesn’t let up until its dénouement.
“There’s no such thing as easy money. As surgeon Edward Hammond is about to find out. Thirteen years ago he performed a life saving operation on a Serbian gangster, Dragan Gazi. Gazi is now standing trial for war crimes in the international court in The Hague. After his life was saved, his men went on to slaughter thousands in the Balkan civil wars.
Now Gazi’s family want more from him: in exchange for keeping Hammond’s dirty little secret, they want him to find for them the man who holds the key to all the money Gazi squirreled away before he was locked up. But Italian financier, Marco Piravani, doesn’t want to be found, not by Hammond, not by anyone. No sooner has Hammond tracked him down, than Piravani has disappeared again.
His pursuit will take him first to the Hague, and then to Milan to find the Italian, and then finally back to the scene of his crime, Belgrade, where he must confront the decisions he once so easily took. Only then will he be able to lay the past to rest…”
Characterisation is strong. Edward Hammond is a likeable protagonist and I came away from the book wanting to discover more about him, his career and family – always a good sign. When we first meet Hammond he begins the journey as a confident and assured professional but following an unlikely meeting, that confidence quickly evaporates as he comes to terms with the predicament he faces.
Despite this confidence, I felt the liver surgeon came across as naïve – however the naivety certainly gives his character somewhere to grow and develop and Goddard certainly does that – not only with Hammond but the entire supporting cast. Forced to think on his feet and make life and death decisions, sometimes at the drop of a hat, Hammond visibly matures. It was this character development that interested me and kept me hooked throughout.
Along the way Goddard introduces a variety of characters to support Hammond’s main role and I never once felt he added a character for the sake of it – no unnecessary filling in this race against the clock thriller! They all have a story to tell, some more powerful than others and despite his imposing personality Dragan Gazi silently officiates from the side-lines.
Twists and unexpected turns are a given in the thriller genre and “Blood Count” is certainly no exception delivering a veritable feast of shocks from start to finish. Goddard never lets you settle and you never quite know who to trust and who to believe – nothing is ever black and white.
A taut and exciting thriller, “Blood Count” is an examination in morality, revenge and sheer doggedness. Very well thought out and delivered, the novel is an example of masterful thriller writing from a seasoned professional. One not to miss.
Published by Bantam Press, “Blood Count” is available from Amazon
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