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by Robert Goddard
Bantam, February 2019
352 pages
20 GBP
ISBN: 0593076389

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Nicole Nevinson, a corporate executive for a California-based computer firm known as Venstrom, arrives in a small town in Cornwall, England with the aim of recruiting a gaming savant for her employer. Executives there have noticed that Joe Roberts can out-play Venstrom's computers at the Asian board game of Go. Company management are intrigued, and see Joe's value to their firm in developing new, state-of-the-art software.

But between his recreational forays Joe already has a job, doing undemanding computer work for Conrad and Marianne Vogler, a couple living in the town. Nicole approaches the husband, hoping to make him an offer that will persuade the couple to let Joe leave. But Nicole soon learns that they're serious—deadly serious—about keeping him to themselves. And Joe himself is suspicious about Nicole's overtures, and anything but anxious to accept, or even seriously explore, her offer.

Nicole has a room at a nearby B&B run by Joe's mother, and among the other guests is a woman, Ursula Kendall, who, it turns out, also has an interest in the Voglers. Before long she has persuaded Nicole to help her penetrate the secretive couple's business affairs. Then, too late, Nicole finds herself in way over her head, and fighting for her very life. Before it has ended Nicole's story will move between Cornwall, Finland, London, and the Cotswolds, leaving an ever-growing trail of bodies in its wake; and Nicole herself will be forced to flee, the police regarding her as a murder suspect in some of the deaths.

Full disclosure: I've been a huge fan of Robert Goddard's novels for decades. A Cambridge-trained historian, he deftly combines historical events with all-too-plausible plot lines to produce compelling tales that will intrigue readers until the final page. Recently Goddard was named as the 2019 recipient of the prestigious Diamond Dagger, awarded by the Crime Writers Association for a lifetime contribution to crime writing. Goddard's writing is up there with the master of spy fiction, John Le Carré, ONE FALSE MOVE is a finely-nuanced and exquisitely-layered tale, with more wrinkles than an aging Shar-Pei. It is among his very best work, and that is very high praise indeed.

§ Since 2005 Jim Napier's reviews and interviews have appeared in several Canadian newspapers and on various crime fiction and literary websites, including his own award-winning review site, Deadly Diversions. His debut crime novel Legacy was published in the Spring of 2017, and the second in the series, Ridley's War, is scheduled for release in the Summer of 2019.

Reviewed by Jim Napier, March 2019

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