©2008 Robert Goddard;
"Written in clear, resonant prose, Goddard's first novel, nominated for the Booker prize, is a poised telling of a complex tale....In one sense a historical thriller, and in another a romantic novel of a love affair gone disastrously wrong, this is, in any case, a wonderful read." (Publishers Weekly)
"Psychological drama and intricate plot will entice readers." (Library Journal)
I hesitated so long whether to get this book.. It had relatively few reviews despite being out for 2 years and the cover artwork and publisher's summary are bland. I eventually took the plunge and glad I did! I highly recommend it.
There are 2 main characters that contribute to telling the story. A man about 30 in early 1970's is hired to find out what happened to a man who was an English Cabinet Minister (at about 1930, if I remember correctly). That sounds kind of boring, but there is quite a robust plot with a couple of unexpected revelations and some duplicitous characters. Even though there are 2 stories with a fair amt of characters, the book is not overly complex to be thoroughly entertaining. Narrator was good, not great, but I would listen to other books narrated by him. I will look for more from this author.
Love having someone read me a story. Fires in the hearth, rain on the roof, sunny days and surf. Good friends, good food and J S Bach.
After I had finished listening I found that I was puzzling over a decision made by one of the characters. At odd times. In the house, driving, doing normal things..the questions would pop up. It does not seem to fit the character. Then that leads on to thinking about the decisions real people make sometimes, human frailty or inconsistency.
Goddard doesn't even ask the reader to suspend disbelief. The choice, the decision is made. Then at the end of the story another dilemma. Even though the book is finished, the story goes on and "No", we the reader do not feel compelled to learn what happens next.
I think that is clever. It is at the last Goddard allows us / urges us, to use our imagination.
And just maybe we are quite content to be ignorant. In that there is a kind of dialogue between the author, the story and the reader.
Paul Shelly reads "Past Caring " well.
This book started reasonably well but quickly became completely bogged down. It was a good premise - old mystery, modern connections - which appears to be the only type of story Robert Goddard writes, but it was clear to me from the first few chapters exactly what the "mystery" was and it seemed to take forever to have this confirmed. It was a struggle to finish and the only reason I did was because I listen when travelling and it didn't require any thought processes.
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
At one point of this story, the protagonist is advised “nothing is as it seems”. That is a vast understatement in this tangled web of deceit, double-dealing and revenge. As with my prior outing with Goddard, I must work at not giving away any of the plot as spoilers would be difficult to avoid. Suffice it to say that there are few truly good people involved, and they are put upon badly by the self-serving villains whose bad deeds flow into and escalate over six decades, erupting when a young history researcher is given a commission to look into a memoir found in an old villa. The narrative is liberally dotted with familiar names from Edwardian parliamentary politics, and I did have to pay attention to keep up with political issues that I had only a passing familiarity with.
I liked this story. It’s not a thriller but it is a mystery, very complex. It’s constructed like a puzzle, and Goddard gives us the pieces in a manner that we can work it out along with and sometimes ahead of the other players. The characters are well thought out and feel real to me. The history researcher at the center of the story was flawed, and proved himself slightly unscrupulous or at least pretty gullible at one point, but pulls himself together before it’s all over. The resolution was handled just right, leaving a question mark with one character in the final moments. I hope that the title of the book hints at how he will answer that question.
What a great find. Highly recommend to anyone. The story is well thought out and crafted to keep you wanting more. The narration was excellent and complemented the story line and characters. I wish Goddard had more books of this length as options at Audible. This is one of the few books I have listened to that has little to no filler. A great balance of setting the scene, the environment, the characters and always emphasizing the intricate plot contained within the book. 6 stars if I could give it.
Beautifully written story with characters that really come alive. The flawed nature of many of these characters gives them and the book an authenticity way beyond normal fiction. The author has an ability to lead you to guess (correctly!) at certain outcomes before they occur in the story which I found very unusual but satisfying when the tale reached that point. To find out if your guess was right makes the book unputdownable.
I really enjoyed this book. The story was well paced, with tantalizing clues promising revelations just around the corner. Even though it was long-ish, I listened though it faster than usual. Like a lot of other books by the author, there were parallel stories progressing in the past and in the present, however this one the time gap between the two stories was within the lifetime of some of the main characters, which made things interesting. At first I though the opening scene was going to be the "past" part of this story, until I realized that this was his first novel, written a couple of decades ago.
The narrator was excellent, with the local accents being recognizable but not annoying.
The complexity of the story and it was well read. Characters engaging as was the protagonistls
This is my second Goddard, which is a good thing because otherwise I might have dropped it too soon. The truth is that I thought the historical background dragged down the first half of the book. I found it boring at times. The solution to the memoir's mystery seemed almost obvious -- certainly not enough of an enigma so as to justify the characters' intense interest in solving it! Still, having read another Goddard, I knew there had to be more to the story -- and there was! A lot more! The way in which the main character in the present (a very flawed, failed historian) and the main character in the memoir (a failed politician) seem to lead parallel lives...and the ways in which those two characters are also extremely different, is at the center of a spiraling tale of deceit and consequences. Loved the second half of the book; thought the first half was wanting...ergo the three stars.
After this paragraph, spoilers abound, but right now you’re safe. If you’ve never read a Goddard novel, do it. His stories are long, complex and wholly satisfying if not entirely original. I read a lot of thrillers and mysteries, so quite often I can predict how a plot point is going to turn. The thing of it is, Goddard binds his readers to the story with this knowledge not by astounding you every five minutes with some fantastical twist. He doesn’t need smoke and mirrors to keep a reader going. He does it by knowing how to set tension, creating interesting characters that still have surprises up their sleeves and by helping you get ahead of the story and urging the protagonist to catch up. I’ve read his first novel (this one) and his latest (Long Time Coming) and both are equally good; quality, long-arc thrillers spiced with historical detail and real-life characters. I will definitely read more.
Spoilers set to kill.
While only my second Goddard novel, I’m not surprised at how he weaves his tales. This one is long and complex with lots of players, but I loved every minute of it. Edwin’s memoir is so tantalizing as a device and for itself and so was the search for the post-script. As soon as its existence was revealed I knew where it had to be hidden and silently urged Martin to think and could hardly bear his fumbling when I knew where it was all along! It takes a deft hand to tie a reader to the story so completely. The current trend seems to want to only do this with unknowable and unforeseeable twists in the story, but Goddard does it with knowledge, binding you to his protagonists through mutual desire for success.
From Martin’s dissipated self-interest to Eve’s two-faced game playing and Edwin’s ineffectual victimhood the story never felt slack or stale even though I could guess a lot of it. What else but a secret marriage would be Edwin’s undoing? What else could have been Martin’s undoing? Of course Eve was not as she seemed. Alex was on shaky ground to begin with. And of course Elizabeth would always be the long-suffering innocent. The only thing that threw me was Leo’s ultimate purpose. It seemed really strange to me that he’d take out his vitriol and long-distilled hatred on an innocent old woman who had nothing to do with his circumstances. Strange, but the way he morphed from kindly patron to vicious criminal mastermind was very well done. Sure he was a bit of a cliché and the whole gun incident set up the penultimate ending, with Martin’s reward at the end being the capper. Satisfying if not wholly original. I’ll definitely read more of Goddard in future.
"An erudite mystery"
Plot wise, this is a 5 star mystery...not a thriller per se, more of a gradual burner, which builds in sophistication, complexity and urgency. Goddard always plays fair - the characters stay in character, and the inevitable coincidences are believable. The ending is very satisfying and well brought together.
The main characters of Edwin Stafford and his love Elizabeth are beautifully drawn. As an aside, I was able to answer last week's University Challenge's question on who was Prime Minister after Campbell-Bannerman (Asquith)....this came as a bit of a shock to my co-viewers who have me down as a history dunce (and not without reason).
The reason for the 4* rather than a 5* review is because some of the supporting characters are simplistically either good or evil, and are not developed in any level of sophistication, sympathy or understanding - there are too many
'blazing eyes' from various personalities either in passion or in anger. Apart from these lapses, it's a good read.
By the way, it is beautifully narrated by Paul Shelley.
This is a book that doesn't neatly fit a genre. It follows the story of a man who is in the English cabinet before WW1 who falls in love with a suffragette. He mysteriously loses his job and his fiancee and never finds out why. His colleagues wont speak to him and the girl immediately leaves the country.
Fast forward to the present and a man down on his luck is hired to discover why Edwin Strafford was cast aside all those years before. This man, Martin, soon gets embroiled in all sorts of plots,scheming and double bluffs but why?
The book is literary, political, plenty of crime and intrigue, romantic and absorbing. It surprised me how much I enjoyed it. The narrative moves steadily along although there are plenty of sections involved with the government of the time and with the history and actions of suffragettes.
It is not a fast paced thriller more a sustained, intensifying burn.
The narration is steady and clear and helps keep the plot focussed. This story is long so is good value for money and the ending is unexpected so you keep going all the way to the last few minutes.
I recommend this.
"Would think about this book all day!"
To think i was in two minds whether to give this book a chance is crazy now i've finished it!
This book had me gripped from the start. I'd be at work thinking about it and looking forward to bed to listen to some more! Perfectly read by Shelly who nailed every charactor.
So many twists and the way the book goes back in time is so clever. The way Goddard had written the charactors made you feel like you knew them. A beautiful mystery.I will be going through the rest of his books now.
Even now after finishing the book i still think about the charactors.
"A Tantalising Mystery"
I could not put this book down! An astonishing first novel... our hero appears weak and flawed in many ways, and the circumstances of the story alternately reveal his weaknesses and develop his strengths. The way the seeming coincidences in the story come together to reveal the one pulling the strings is masterful.
A fascinating historical novel full of ambition, greed, fear, romance, ruthlessness, and concern for the feelings and reputation of others. One of the best books I have read for a long time. Highly recommended!
"Long winded tale for simpletons"
Despite the description this isn't exactly a mystery at all. In fact, as long as you can bear to listen through the over descriptive, flowery, and long winded preamble, the answers are given to you with the questions. I was totally disappointed with this book. A mystery, no - apart from why didn't the editor do something to reduce its length, or better still, reduce it to a short story.
My first book by this author and what a pleasure it was. A wonderful book, not a wasted word, beautifully narrated, great story, interesting characters. I could not leave it down until I had finished it.
"Not the Best Robert Goddard Book"
Having read Fault Line before this one, I was looking forward to this one. Was not nearly as good, but I do realise this was his first book. Story was ok, but lacked the depth that his later books have. I also thought the narrator sounded too old for the age of the character, had this been the first book I had read I wouldn't be buying another for some time, but as Fault Line was so good, I will try another Robert Goddard in the future
outstanding! A absolute must read if you are in 2 minds about selecting this title
One of the best books I have ever read or listened to. A story within a story, which is worthy of a book by itself. Paul Shelley does a great job with the narration. A book you do not really want to end.
intricate, gripping and believable
the very believable and brief involvement of W Churchill in the story
the intricate way in which all the characters were woven into the story combined to great effect
Strafford coming to terms with his rejection by all those he held dear
One of Goddards earlier books and one of his very best.
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