The Steady Running of the Hour is a impressive début novel by young American author Justin Go. It starts with a recently graduated Californian, Tristan Campbell, receiving a letter asking him to contact a London law firm about a possible inheritance.
Tristan is intrigued and calls the firm, which represents the trustees of an estate, who explain that Tristan may be the last possible heir.
They fly him to London and it is explained to him that he needs quickly to be able to establish a legal connection to the heir named in the Will. At stake is the fortune of a 19th century British shipping magnate held in trust since 1924.
The lawyer explained that the Will was drawn up for a young British Army officer, Ashley Walsingham, who survived the trenches of World War 1 only to die while a member of the 1924 Mt Everest expedition. The urgency facing Tristan was the need to establish a claim in the 7 weeks remaining before the trust vests and the distributed to several charities.
This young author has written an intriguing authentic tale with confidence and maturity which commences in August 1916 with a brief illicit love affair between Ashley who is on leave before being sent to France and the impetuous nineteen year old Imogene. She is from a well to do middle class English family and falls in love with Ashley which is the trigger for a nearly 90 year old mystery that Tristan must solve to receive the inheritance.
Tristan’s quest and ensuing research takes us back to Ashley’s war and the horror of the trenches, to a remote lake in Sweden in early 1917 where Tristan’s grandmother Charlotte is born, forward in time to the 1924 Everest expedition, back to the Paris art world of the “20s, the battlefields of the Somme, and ultimately to the answer of the mystery in Iceland.
I could not put this beautifully constructed and engrossing novel down – easy to get into and compelling to the end.
Terry Purcell is a solicitor and was the founding director of the Law Foundation of NSW. He is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog.
by Justin Go
In this mesmerising début, a young American discovers he may be heir to the unclaimed estate of an English World War I officer, which launches him on a quest across Europe to uncover the elusive truth.
Just after graduating college, Tristan Campbell receives a letter delivered by special courier to his apartment in San Francisco. It contains the phone number of a Mr J.F. Prichard of Twyning & Hooper, Solicitors, in London-and news that could change Tristan’s life forever.
In 1924, Prichard explains, an English alpinist named Ashley Walsingham died attempting to summit Mt Everest, leaving his fortune to his former lover, Imogen Soames-Andersson. But the estate was never claimed. Information has recently surfaced suggesting Tristan may be the rightful heir, but unless he can find documented evidence, the fortune will be divided among charitable beneficiaries in less than two months.
In a breathless race from London archives to Somme battlefields to the Eastfjords of Iceland, Tristan pieces together the story of a forbidden affair set against the tumult of the First World War and the pioneer British expeditions to Mt Everest. Following his instincts through a maze of frenzied research, Tristan soon becomes obsessed with the tragic lovers, and he crosses paths with a mysterious French girl named Mireille who suggests there is more to his quest than he realises. Tristan must prove that he is related to Imogen to inherit Ashley’s fortune-but the more he learns about the couple, the stranger his journey becomes.
The Steady Running of the Hour announces the arrival of a stunningly talented author. Part love story, part historical tour de force, Justin Go’s novel is utterly compelling, unpredictable, and heartrending.