One False Move by Robert Goddard

Bantam Press | 2019 (28 February) | 352p | Review copy | Buy the book

One False Move by Robert GoddardJoe Roberts is an extraordinary young man. He might think that he lives a quiet, unremarkable life in Cornwall working as a financial advisor, but he has a talent that attracts attention. He has a genius for playing the strategic game of Go. He can even beat the computer at it. He can outsmart computers. Venstrom, a gaming company giant based in the Silicon Valley, wants him and so they send Nicole Nevinson to St Maws in Cornwall to sign him up. Money is no object and failure is not an option, as Nicole’s boss yells down the phone at her. But Joe’s current employer and shady businessman, Conrad Vogler, isn’t going to let Joe go in a hurry. And Vogler isn’t going to be all that Nicole has to worry about. Other people are after Joe Roberts and their intentions are dark and significant. Nicole has crossed a line. She is completely out of her depth. Her world will collapse around her. To survive, she must play their game and win.

Robert Goddard is a master plotter. He is a writer of ingenious thrillers. They are awe inspiring. And yet again, with One False Move, Robert Goddard demonstrates just how truly brilliant he is. This is a superb thriller! It’s one of those rare books that sweeps the ground from under your feet. You start the book thinking you have one kind of story and then there’s a monumental shift and you’re thrown into intricately plotted chaos and then it happens again! Nicole Nevinson goes through hell in this novel and we are made to know exactly how that feels for her. There are no constants, no certainties. It’s breathtaking. It is also extremely menacing. The menace starts early on but soon you know that there are degrees of menace which you could never expect. The world is not as you think it.

The gaming element is fascinating and such an effective metaphor for the book as a whole. Characters have to work hard to outsmart and outmanoeuvre more powerful forces. Usually they fail. Working out who to trust is a key element of One More Move. Decisions have to be made in an instant. If you make the wrong move, consequences can be deadly. You can’t undo it.

Nicole Nevinson is such a fine main character and a very effective narrator. She knows little more than the reader about the genius that Joe embodies. She has to learn those skills herself and it’s extraordinary how much happens to her over such a short period of time, how much the world shifts.

One False Move is one of the best thrillers I’ve read in quite a while. It develops in a way that is irresistible. I did not want to put this book down. Its structure and plot is incredibly intricate and rewardingly complex. It’s clever but it’s also genuinely thrilling as well as being superbly written. I’m not sure it’s possible to ask for more.

Other reviews
The Ways of the World (The Wide World 1)
The Corners of the Globe (The Wide World 2)
The Ends of the Earth (The Wide World 3)
Panic Room

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