Skip to main content

Days Without Number


Days Without Number

About 15 years ago I read my first Robert Goddard novel. I was turned on to him via my “Book of the Day” calendar. I consider myself a very astute reader and usually catch on to things well before any surprises occur. That being said, CAUGHT IN THE LIGHT caught me completely off guard with a legendary twist I never saw coming.

I now had to read everything I could from this British author. My next stop was to The Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan (one of the few things I miss about living in New York), where I snatched up as many British paperback editions of Goddard’s books that I could carry. In 2003 he penned the novel DAYS WITHOUT NUMBER, and I was overjoyed to see this title included on the November review list as it is finally seeing its U.S. release.

On the back cover of one of those British paperbacks, there is a picture of a hand-held corkscrew next to one of his novels. The advertising below each said, “Twisty. Twistier.” I could not have put it better myself. There has yet to be a Robert Goddard book I have read that did not stay one or more steps ahead of me in plotting and character development. It was that sense of delighted apprehension that I brought to reading DAYS WITHOUT NUMBER, and I am pleased to report he did not let me down.

"Goddard has penned a real Byzantine-inspired head scratcher of a novel where the reader will become just as confused and frustrated as Nick is."

The novel takes its title from the Bible. Psalms 90:12 reads: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” The reference is applied with subtlety to the situations that Nick Paleologus and his family face in this diabolically clever work of fiction. Early in the story we see that Nick is reluctant to meet with his family. His brothers and sisters demand a meeting to discuss their family home, Trennor, and the prospect of it being sold by their unpopular father.

The family meets to discuss a rather substantial offer being made on Trennor by someone known as Mr. Tantris. Before things can proceed further, tragedy strikes the family. Nick's father is found dead inside the house, an apparent victim of an accident by falling down a flight of stairs. Yes, the death seems suspicious, but that is not what troubles his children the most. It is the need to contact the mysterious Mr. Tantris to see if his offer was legitimate and is still on the table in light of this recent development.

When Nick and his siblings make their way through the house, they find a very disturbing surprise --- the skeletal remains of someone who did not die by natural causes. To make matters worse, young Tom, the son of Nick's brother Andrew, makes the connection with the name Tantris. He points out that it is an anagram for “Tristan” --- the lead character in their father's favorite novel, THE ROMANCE OF TRISTAN by Beroul.

Now, with Mr. Tantris uncovered as false, the next mystery to solve is the identity of a woman named Elspeth Hartley, who posed as his secretary. When a videotape with an unsettling image on it is left in Nick's car during his father's wake, it becomes evident that someone is plotting against them. The question is why and to what end. Is the mysterious person or persons simply looking to possess Trennor, or is there something else going on here?

Like most Robert Goddard novels, the action in DAYS WITHOUT NUMBER begins to spiral out of control for the protagonist. Shortly after Andrew is killed in an “accident,” Nick turns up some historical information while investigating his family tree and discovers a possible connection to the infamous Knights Templar. He then finds an unholy alliance between his nephew and the mystery woman, Elspeth.

Nick's search for answers takes him across Europe and finds him eventually settled in Venice, Italy, where his other brother, Basil, and an unknown cousin named Demetrius are supposed to be. The book becomes like the literary equivalent of a Russian doll puzzle. Secret upon secret is uncovered by Nick to the point where he begins to believe that nothing is so. Beaten and defeated, he wonders what secret could matter in the face of so much death.

The book’s title is also revealed in the closing pages where not everything is wrapped up in a nice bow. Goddard has penned a real Byzantine-inspired head scratcher of a novel where the reader will become just as confused and frustrated as Nick is. This is yet another example of the author writing a novel that consistently keeps readers on their toes and challenges them to try and unravel the riddle he has put together before the protagonist does.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on December 2, 2016

Days Without Number
by Robert Goddard

  • Publication Date: November 8, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802125727
  • ISBN-13: 9780802125729