Past Caring – Robert Goddard

Title – Past Caring

Author – Robert Goddard

Published – 1986

Genre – Crime fiction

This was my second choice of title in “The Great Transworld Crime Caper”, a challenge to review three books from a list of first crime novels. I chose this as my second book as I’ve never read any Robert Goddard and with over 20 books published I thought this would be a great introduction. Sadly found reading this book a huge chore and it was a challenge to get to the end.

Why should distinguished Edwardian Cabinet minister Edwin Strafford resign at the height of his parliamentary career? Why does the woman he loves so suddenly and coldly reject him? Why, seventy years later, should people go to such lengths – even as far as murder – to prevent the truth from being revealed?

Martin Radford, history graduate, disaffected and unemployed, leaps at the chance to get to the island of Madeira and begin the hunt for a solution to the intriguing secret of Edwin Strafford’s fall from grace. However, his seeming good fortune turns to nightmare as his investigation triggers a bizarre and violent train of events which remorselessly entangles him and those who believed they had escaped the spectre of crimes long past but never paid for…

Opening in 1977 we follow Martin, an unemployed history teacher, who accepts the offer of a trip to Madeira to visit an old friend. While on the island he is approached by Leo Sellick, an influential man in the community, to carry out some research into the previous occupant of his house, Edwin Strafford. This felt very similar to a number of books I’ve read recently, using a memoir as  device to tell a story from the past, in this case Strafford’s story from the early part of the 20th century.

When Martin returns to England to carry out this research he finds that there are people still alive who have a great (and very serious) interest in what he’s doing. There follows a convoluted plot which revolves around a mystery in 1910.

I’m sure that Robert Goddard is a very accomplished author – you must be doing something right if you have 20 odd books published. Here comes the “but” – but I thought this was dreadful. If the book had been a third of the length (it was a hefty 622 pages) it might have been better, but as it was the story dragged on and on. I found the lead character completely unsympathetic. He was sacked as a teacher, didn’t really treat any of his friends well, and didn’t even like his own daughter. As soon as a woman appeared in the story he was willing to drop all his principles in order to gain her approval. Perhaps the point was that he should be unlikable, but ‘came good at the end’, but that doesn’t make for an enjoyable book. I would have been pleased if someone had bumped him off!

Although the book was originally published in 1986 and the edition I was reading was published in 2010, it was full of errors, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with so many typos. While it didn’t stop me following the plot, it was distracting.

Needless to say I failed the Transworld challenge – I took far too long to finish this book, so sadly I never made it to my third & final choice of book – The Business of Dying Simon Kernick. So the question is – should I go out & buy it anyway?

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