It is immediately obvious in this critically acclaimed novel that the protagonist is a type the reader can recognise. After all, we all encounter men who are less than successful, who have made personal mistakes and professional blunders; who have resigned themselves to having accomplished the bare minimum. Not totally down and out, but certainly not obvious candidates for what women would consider a great catch. Not magnets of attraction. Still, they can present a nice enough image – a sympathetic one – of someone who is only missing a chance or two, or the right woman. An interesting protagonist, who fills the reader with hope that chance will come by the end of the novel.
Harry Barnett lurches from one disaster to another discovering, as he is plunged into a mystery about a missing young woman, that he is personally involved in the intrigue. Very involved. With no idea that the chase for Heather Mallender, which takes him from Rhodes to England, then to Switzerland and back to Greece and finally back to England, is largely about him.
Harry changes during this chase for an elusive woman who turns out to have an unstable past. As he discovers more about her life, his original sense of duty turns into a new determination, an obsession about the truth -- and the amazing fact that everything he finds out, everything Heather’s own clues point to -- cannot be ignored because it takes him so close to home. How is it possible that this young woman’s life is so intertwined with his own? That her privileged background has anything remotely to do with his? Harry delves, probes and digs, finding to his horror that there is more to Heather’s disappearance than was first apparent. She has a dead sister, a reticent set of parents, a persistent and successful boss, a dull but informative workmate, and most importantly of all, as Harry finds out to his chagrin, a psychotherapist with an ulterior motive.
To find whether Heather is being held in an asylum against her will, Harry pitches himself against adversity, with nothing but a few photos to guide him. He willingly puts himself in danger and risks not only his immediate future, but also the possibility of severe disappointment, which readers know can be a killer emotion. Heather has vanished into the blue, setting a lonely man a serious problem. She challenges, even in her absence, every presumption that Harry had made about life: about himself and his own past.
Goddard’s excellent writing makes this a first-class compelling novel, putting the reader in a position of having to guess with the protagonist each step of the way as complication piles on complication. The clues are baffling but obviously linked and clearly lead to yet another step on the way, creating perplexing possibilities: perhaps Heather was kidnapped, perhaps killed. Perhaps she is not who the reader thinks she is. Ideas occur, only to be slowly dashed as new information comes to the fore and with it, another obstacle and another clue as to why Harry can never let go of the search.
What Goddard does best in this book is put the reader squarely in the locations he chooses, creating believable places that can be mentally confirmed by those who have actually been to Rhodes and Greece, and of course England. Another of the excellent things about Into The Blue is the way Harry Barnett changes in a subtle way – the shifts are small but certain, and come close to how men change in real life. Many of these instances are written so well they make a reader compare them with actual shifts they have witnessed in real people around them – or make them wish some men would make such shifts! It is no wonder that this book was turned into a screenplay and successfully shown to an audience of hundreds of thousands. This is entertainment with a big E.