This is my review of Long Time Coming: Crime Thriller by Robert Goddard.
Robert Goddard writes old-fashioned yarns distinguished by intriguing convoluted plots, usually linked to some interesting historical situation. This makes up for the reliance on coincidences, at times cliché-ridden or oddly condensed prose (“railinged terrace” etc) and somewhat two-dimensional characters, with a preponderance of seedy, under-achieving middle-aged men and over-romanticised females.
I agree with those who find “Long Time Coming” a marked improvement on the recent annual production of rather mediocre pot-boilers. The “interesting history” in this case is the situation in 1940s Dublin, where Eamonn Devalera was reluctant to enter the war as an ally of Britain, partly since he believed that the Germans had a better chance of winning. The story commences in 1976 with Stephen Swann stunned to find that, far from dead as he had been led to believe, his Uncle Eldritch has in fact spent 36 years in an Irish gaol, for a crime which he refuses to reveal, there being no public records available. Eldritch enlists Stephen’s help in proving that some Picassos were stolen from his former employer’s family…..and so the labrynthine plot is set up.
I like the well-worn but in this case effective device of switching between 1976 (authentically free of mobile phones, PCs and the Internet etc) and 1940. This made the scenes more dramatic than lengthy reported explanations from Eldritch would have proved.
My one reservation is that Eldritch seems remarkably undamaged and free from bitterness for the inordinately long time spent in gaol. We are told about the innate resilience of his 1940s self, but that didn’t seem sufficient explanation. Also, Stephen appears very lacking in empathy or imagination in not thinking about what his uncle must have suffered, especially if not guilty. However, in general the plot “adds up” quite well, and this is a good read for a long journey, or if you want a spot of undemanding escapism.