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The Fine Art of Invisible Detection by Robert Goddard | Book Review

The readers of layered, complicated mysteries are familiar with author Robert Goddard’s works which have been tantalising readers for many years now. We have reviewed some of his works here at Thinkerviews:

The Ways of the World by Robert Goddard

And in 2020, he published a mystery that is titled The Fine Art of Invisible Detection, featuring a middle-aged Japanese woman who prefers to blend in the background. We recently read this book and here are our thoughts and review for the same.

Book Title : The Fine Art of Invisible Detection
The thrilling BBC Between the Covers Book Club pick
Author :
Published by : Charnwood Corgi ( 16 September 2021)
# of Pages : 400 (Paperback) 377; 2345 KB (Kindle EBook) 713 Minutes (Audiobook)
# of Chapters : 30
Purchase Link(s) :

Book Cover:

Let us take a look at the cover page of this book.

The Fine Art of Invisible Detection by Robert Goddard | Book Cover

The Fine Art of Invisible Detection by Robert Goddard | Book Cover

The cover page of this book follows the minimalistic theme that was seen on some other murder mystery detective series published in last few years. The background is made of primary colours red and orange and a black, shadowy person holds a white banner showing the title of the book spelled in white, orange, red and black colours. A cast of shadowy characters move around the backdrop of the city at a bottom under which the author’s name is outlined.

An attractive colour page reflecting the times it was published in, but it will be interesting to see what the future editions show on the front cover.


Umiko Wada works for a private detective based in Tokyo. A middle-aged woman who now sees herself as Wada, instead of Miss Umiko or Ms Wada, she is quite at peace with her life. Then Mimori Takenaga comes to Kodaka detective agency with a request to meet a man called Martin Caldwell, in London. Martin has some information to share about Mimori Takenaga’s father who allegedly committed suicide nearly forty years ago.

As Wada is fluent in English, they decide to send Wada to London for the meeting. When Wada arrives in London, she has a message waiting for her to call their detective firm’s lawyer. He has bad news. Kodaka-san was killed by a hit-and-run driver while she was travelling, and it was not an accident. Kodaka left a file with the lawyer, for Wada. The lawyer’s message is clear: this trip is dangerous, better walk away now. Although he agrees to send the file to London.

Wada goes ahead to keep his appointment with Caldwell, but he doesn’t show up. Next day, she travels to his home address and breaks into his flat. While there, she is attacked by a Japanese man. Wada fights back and when the noise attracts the neighbours and police, the attacker runs away.

Wada is taken to hospital, where the retired journalist Barry Holgate pays her a visit. Barry gives her the background of events that happened forty years ago – involving eight resident students who shared a house.

Looks like another chain of events have started that involve the same people and now their offspring – including Nick Miller. Nick is an art teacher whose Easter break has turned into an unforeseen mission and journey to the past, after a phone call from Martin Caldwell.

When Wada checks herself out of the hospital and returns to her hotel, she finds that her room has been broken in and items she put in hotel safe are stolen. She waits long enough to receive her file sent from Japan and then takes off on a dangerous journey that sees her visit New York, Reykjavik, Rotterdam and back to England.

She survives multiple attacks and is lucky enough to see the full chain of events to the end, but how long will her luck last? How many people will continue to become collateral damage and lose their lives in this dangerous game?

Views and Reviews:

When I picked up this book for reading, I expected a detective novel, based on the title, the blurb and first few pages. But it is well and truly in-line with other Robert Goddard books which are known for their layered mysteries laced with conspiracy theories and a twist behind every turn. And as enjoyable as it is to follow the trail of eight students sharing a house in seventies and making life-changing choices is, as we travel through Japan, England and Iceland, I still enjoyed the characterisation of Umiko Wada the most in this story:

She wasn’t going to do what was easiest or, at least in the short term, safest. She was going to do what, in all circumstances, she judged to be best. Because that was her nature. And fighting against her naure was, as she well knew, futile.

She is a woman at peace with her life and yet when life goes through such changes and predicaments in matter of mere days, she finds resilience and resourcefulness that has always been under the surface. I liked her love of languages and literature and how she carries a favourite book with her through all the troubling events, wondering about the nature of the tale and translation:

She’d bought an English translation of her favourite novel, Sasameyuki, by Junichiro Tanizaki, to read on the plane. The title in English was The Makioka Sisters, which didn’t capture any of the allusive subtlety of the Japanese original. Understandably, the translator had failed to find any way to convey in English what the word sasameyuki – lightly falling snow – conjured up for a Japanese reader.

Rest of the characters are there to support the tale and are written no differently from the previous works by the author. There is a wide variety of nationality, professions, capabilities and some stereotyping. I think the following line sums up most of the divisions that drive conflicts:

The true division of mankind. Not male and female. Not black and white. Not even rich and poor. But the right people…and the wrong people.

The secret in the background includes military secrets, poisonous gases, the need for every generation to fight for a better world, there is also the representation of current climate crisis and how that can be utilised for monetary gain by certain groups. The book is fast, readable and will be enjoyed by fans of the author, but I did find it a bit light on the detailing at spaces.


An entertaining, interesting tale featuring a new detective who solves more than a murder mystery and probably will come back for more adventures in the next books by the author…

ThinkerViews Rating:

Around 8 stars out of 10.

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Over To You:

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