Finished July 31
The Ways of the World by Robert Goddard
This novel is the first in The Wide World trilogy. Set in 1919, shortly after the end of World War I, the book occurs mostly in Paris, where the world's nations are engaged in the Paris Peace Conference. One of the British delegation is Henry Maxted, a diplomat who has served in countries from Japan to Brazil to Russia. Henry's youngest son, James (known to most of his friends as Max) has recently come home after being in a POW camp for the last half of the war. Max has plans with a mechanic friend of his to start a flying school and Henry has agreed to let him use some of the family's estate for the location.
When Henry dies suddenly under suspicious circumstances, the authorities seem quick to deem it an accident. But Henry's widow sends both her sons to Paris to learn more details and bring their father's body home, knowing the personalities of both and relying on Max's sense of duty to his father to delve into the real story around the death.
This story has a lot going on, with the uncertainty of the political landscape at this historical point, spies, double agents, sexual liaisons, and other strong relationships. Max is young, smart, and determined, but he doesn't always consider the risks of his actions. Besides lots of plot twists, there are also a lot of interesting characters. From Russian monarchists to Arabic cat burglars, Brazilian rubber planters to American fixers. I liked Sam, the mechanic, the best, but even he had his weaknesses. The book ends with a new venture, leading us into the second book in the trilogy.