LONG TIME COMING by Robert Goddard

Book Quote:

“I didn’t want to believe it, though instinctively I did. Suddenly, I was tainted by association. Slave labour in Congolese diamond mines long before I was born had indirectly furnished my father with his shabby little inheritance and his seaside retirement. All those massacres and mutilations I’d read about; all those decades of oppression and exploitation; I’d thought until now they didn’t involve me. But I’d been wrong. Oh so wrong.”

Book Review:

Review by Guy Savage (MAY 20, 2010)

Long Time Coming from British author Robert Goddard is a difficult book to categorize. He’s often referred to as an author of thrillers. This is the first Goddard I’ve read, so I’m not in a position to generalize, but Long Time Coming, (his 21st novel if I’m counting correctly) is part mystery-part suspense. This is not literary fiction, but it is a damn good yarn. The novel isn’t marred by the predictability of some mysteries, and it’s written in a very straight-forward style which manages to emphasize its credibility. Here’s the very first paragraph which creates a terrific sense of immediacy and it’s with these first few sentences that the author begins to spin his fascinating, mysterious tale:

“My mother surprised me when she announced that my uncle was staying with her. It was the first of many surprises that were shortly to come my way. But of all of them it was probably the biggest. Because I’d only ever had one uncle. And I’d always been told he’d died in the Blitz.”

The novel begins in 1976 when Stephen Swan, who’s returning from America in less-than-stellar circumstances, learns via a transatlantic phone call to his widowed mother that his Uncle Eldritch is now living at the Paignton guesthouse she owns. This news comes as a shock to Stephen as years before he was told that Uncle Eldritch “of the exotic christian name and raffish reputation” died in the Blitz. The contrasting versions of Eldritch’s past become even more shocking when Stephen pushes for the truth and is then told that Eldritch has spent the last 36 years of his life locked up in an Irish prison for “offences against the state.” Stephen, consciously playing the role of protective son, tries to get to the bottom of his uncle’s imprisonment, but his questions lead to dead ends and silence. Stephen begins to feel increasingly uncomfortable with the idea that his mother may be harboring some sort of violent criminal.

It doesn’t help that Eldritch is a very shady, shifty, shabby figure with a very checkered past, or that questions about his incarceration are answered with very deliberate evasiveness. While Eldritch may wish to avoid discussing his past, that becomes impossible when he’s approached by a London solicitor to prove that a collection of Picasso paintings were stolen from their rightful owner during WWII. For his trouble Eldritch is to be paid fifty thousand pounds, and he offers to cut Stephen in on the deal….

If Stephen had any sense, he’d refuse, but curiosity rules the day, and this intense curiosity is contagious because I was infected with it too. The novel goes back and forth in time from the WWII years to the present. Swan’s shady past is traced, and a tale of greed, diamond-smuggling, murder and stolen paintings emerges amidst Stephen’s difficult relationship with Eldritch–a man he works with and yet doesn’t trust. Loyalties are further complicated by a budding love affair between Stephen and a woman who has an interest in discovering the truth. There’s more than one seedy skeleton in the family closet, and powerful people are determined that Eldritch, and by association Stephen, won’t uncover the truth about what really happened in Ireland during WWII.

Long Time Coming is a great, deeply distracting read. It’s the sort of book you pick up and don’t want to put down until the mystery is solved. On the down side, the novel seems to go overboard at times–the reintroduction of Moira Henchy towards the end of the novel, for example, just padded pages in a red-herring way, and then the final chapters (1922 and 2008) are ostensibly book ends to the story that takes place. This sewed the tale together all too neatly, and the book would have been better without them. Those complaints aside, will I read another Goddard? Absolutely.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 9 readers
PUBLISHER: Bantam; Original edition (March 2, 2010)
REVIEWER: Guy Savage
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Wikipedia page on Robert Goddard
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: More good mystery/suspense:

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson

Where the Truth Lies by Rupert Holmes


* Feature Harry Barnett

May 20, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Posted in: Edgar Award, Mystery/Suspense, United Kingdom, y Award Winning Author

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