A review of Long Time Coming, by Robert Goddard
@@@@ (4 out of 5)
Robert Goddard writes suspenseful novels that typically span many years in British history and demonstrate graphically the unforeseen consequences of long-ago acts. Long Time Coming is one of the 20 books he has written since the early 90s and one of 12 now available for the Kindle. I acquired an addiction for Goddard’s work six or eight books ago and grab every new entry on the list as soon as it’s available.
Each of Goddard’s mystery novels is a standalone story. There are virtually no reappearing characters, much less a series hero. Another of the hallmarks of Goddard’s writing is his mastery of complex plotting. His books are full of complications, setbacks, and surprises, and Long Time Coming is no exception.
In Long Time Coming, the story is rooted in the legendarily brutal Belgian empire in the Congo in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. But the action shifts back and forth from England to Ireland to Belgium, with episodes alternating from 1976 to 1940 and back again at regular intervals and concluding with shorter scenes in 1922 and 2008.
Long Time Coming tells the tale of Stephen Swan, a young English geologist relocated in 1976 to his home after a stint in the Texas oilfields, and his uncle, Eldritch Swan, who has suddenly appeared in Stephen’s life after 36 years in an Irish prison. Stephen’s parents had always told him his father’s brother had died in the Blitz, but Eldritch, to the young man’s chagrin, is very much alive. And he proceeds to involve his nephew in a perilous chase through London, Dublin, and Antwerp in search of proof that he was innocent of the charge that confined him to prison for more than a third of a century.
Along the way we meet a crooked Antwerp diamond merchant and his beautiful young granddaughter, an IRA terrorist with a world-class talent at forging art, a priceless collection of Picassos, a ruthless and venal former MI6 operative now living the life of a rural squire, and an assortment of police officers, secret service agents, and lawyers in England, Ireland, and Belgium.
Long Time Coming is no mere whodunit but a genuine novel of suspense, peopled by three-dimensional characters living in a moral universe painted in shades of gray.