Panic Room by Robert Goddard starts in the voice of someone unnamed, someone who feels safe in a beautiful, calm place, who wants to stay there forever but who knows that is unrealistic. It made me ask so many questions: who is the speaker, where is this safe place and why isn’t it forever?
It’s a while before we learn the identity of the first speaker. We are next introduced to Don Challenor, an ordinary middle-aged bloke, an estate agent who has been sacked, who is given a temporary job by his ex- wife Fran. To prepare for sale a multi-million property, Wortalleth West in Cornwall, for a client of Fran’s. Don jumps in his vintage MG to drive west, not realising how his life will change.
In the house he sets about his job, taking photos and measurements in order to prepare the sales brochure. Except the dimensions of one room don’t make sense. There is a mystery void. A steel door which cannot be opened. Is it a panic room? Why is it there? What’s in it? Is it dangerous? Could someone be inside, watching? Or are they trapped? Why not simply ask the owner of the house? Of course, nothing is that straightforward. And so the search to solve the riddle begins.
This is a cracking thriller which starts slowly and winds up and winds up as all the disparate threads of story begin to fall into place. It is an old-fashioned thriller with a conflicted but strong heroine, a disillusioned male hero who rediscovers his strength and guile, an arch villain who cannot be fathomed because he seems too nice and reasonable, and a couple of thugs who don’t worry about the trail they leave. Add in a Cornish witch, a kidnapping and a disappearing teenager, and you begin to wonder how on earth it will all make sense.
Goddard draws a beautiful picture of the Cornish coastline, it will make you want to go there… just not to Wortalleth West. You don’t have to work hard, just sit back and let this master thriller writer take you on a journey of family lies and disappearance, manipulation and fraud, big finance, global warming and cutting edge science. It will not be what you expected.
‘Panic Room’ by Robert Goddard [UK: Bantam Press]
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