Monday, July 13, 2009

Scandal in the Asquith Cabinet

Once I find a writer I like, I tend to binge on them. I stop when I have had enough or when I realize I am about to exhaust the oeuvre. In the mid-90s I read all of Robertson Davies and was sad when I all I had left was personal letters and the like. I similarly tore through Patrick Robinson's and Dennis Lehane's crime novels and the Barset Chronicles by Anthony Trollope. Robert Goddard's body of work turned out to be too large to consume all at once. Already in the teens when I started him, I read four or five in a row. loving them all, and then moved on. His books were great, but I guess I had enough of moody, English thrillers for the time.

I had forgotten about him until Stephen King came out calling him his top read for 2008. I picked up a copy of Past Caring late last year and just got to it this week. It was actually even better than I recalled.

Past Caring is lengthy, but that is because it has to fit in the diaries of a long dead British minister as well as the historical research of the less than ideal Martin Radford. Radford is a failed academic and teacher who seems to enjoy drink more than books. A chance visit to Madeira leads him to hunt down the story of Edwin Strafford, a rising political star in 1910 who disappeared from politics for mysterious reasons. As he digs deeper, Radford finds that there are those who wish to keep the story buried along with Strafford.

This book works better than most thrillers because he is interested in his characters as well as his plots. This makes the book twice as long as many similar books, but it is well worth the investment. At many points in the back half, I thought I could tell where the book was going only to have the plot shift in a surprising way. The ending was also true to the characters and did a great job tying it all together.

I think I am going to get on another Goddard jag now.

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