The journey of James Maxted (Max) begun in the first volume of Robert Goddard’s World Wide Trilogy continues in the third volume, THE ENDS OF THE EARTH. The focus shifts to Japan as Max is determined to bring his investigation of his father’s death, Sir Henry Maxted, a British diplomat to a conclusion. In the first two installments we learn that Max does not accept the verdict of the Parisian police that his father had committed suicide and he is bent on restoring his father’s reputation and finally learn the truth. Max is certain his father was murdered and everything seems to center on a failed Japanese nationalist attempt to assassinate the Russian Tsarevitch upon his visit to Tokyo in 1891. The “Dark Ocean” is a Japanese nationalist organization that hoped to prevent any improvement in Russo-Japanese relations, as they were focused on Japanese expansion in the Far East.
Many of the characters from the previous novels reappear in THE ENDS OF THE EARTH; Sam Twentyman, Max’s engineer from World War I; Malory Hollander, an assistant to Schools Morahan; Horace Appleby, a British secret agent, and they with their allies confront the xenophobic Count Iwazu Tomura, a nationalist leader with his own murderous agenda as they try to block the sale of Frederick Lemmer’s spy network to the Japanese government. As in the two earlier novels, the book possesses numerous twists and turns one would expect from a Goddard story. Goddard’s description of the historical period is very accurate. The infighting in the Japanese government over expansion and honor is a major theme. The difficulties between Russia and Japan over the Far East would culminate in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 and continue thereafter is accurate. Goddard also creates a number of documents and letters that keep the reader abreast of what took place in the previous novels that allows the current volume to make sense.
The plot is very suspenseful as Max’s quest continues, but as the story evolves Max is presented with a number of situations that blindside him. At times in the novel it appears that things are about to settle down, but Goddard will then introduce a new character or bring back an old one from the previous volumes to twist the plot even further. Goddard seems to have a low opinion of human nature as most of his characters seem to be seeking some sort of revenge. Max’s goal is to find the letter that Jack Farngold, an old friend whose sister is married to Tomura had sent his father in 1917. The purpose of the letter was to warn him about Tomura and Lemmer, which would explain Sir Henry’s death. As he proceeds Max will learn things about his past that are shocking and will force him to confront Tomura as he tries to uncover the mystery of his own birth.
Throughout the novel Goddard constantly provides hints from the perspective of 1919 of what to expect from Japan in the future. Goddard’s knowledge of Japanese history and geography is an asset as he sets his scenes and allows the reader insights into Japanese culture and politics between 1891 and 1919. The novel is very fast paced and at times I found myself jotting down who some of the characters were because they came and then disappeared at a rapid rate. Despite the numerous characters and shifting plot lines, the novel is surprisingly easy to follow if one pays attention. Despite a storyline seems to bring closure at the book’s end, in true Goddard fashion there are hints that some of these characters may reappear once again in the future. If you enjoyed THE WAYS OF THE WORLD and THE CORNERS OF THE WORLD, Goddard’s final installment will not disappoint.