on 30 January 2015
Published in 1986, this was Robert Goddard's stunning debut novel. A tale of intrigue and deception that flipped from Edwardian England to the1970's and places in between, Pulling the reader into a labyrinth of deception and cover ups, murder and double crosses that would become the hallmark for his future career as a novelist as well as setting the bar very high for the novels that were to follow.
Martin Radford is a washed up teacher and historian with a past he is trying to escape,not your average hero at all. A flawed character who is used to uncover the secret behind the stunning rise and fall of a Liberal politician who served in Asquith's Governmemt alongside Lloyd George and a young Churchill.What is the secret behind Edwin Strafford's downfall and why? When Radford starts investigating the facts 60 years later, he finds himself suddenly in mortal danger.
'Past Caring' set the standard that Robert Goddard novels then had to match or better. It was a brilliant debut novel and best seller. Many admirers of his writing career will agree that the first five books he wrote during the period 1986-1991 are his finest. However, he has used the historical split time technique to good effect in many subsequent novels, most notably 'Caught in the Light' and 'Long Time Coming'
As we look forward to the publication of his concluding 'Maxted 'novel in the summer, it is worth looking back to where and how it all started for this quintessentially English novelist.
on 29 July 2005
A down at heel, disreputable former teacher is enlisted to research a mystery which has spanned the first half of the 20th century ... and beyond. As he delves into the past, his own failures come back to haunt him. It seemed, at first, to be an excuse for a bit of a jaunt and a chance to earn some spare cash; it quickly turns into a real mystery in which the teacher must anticipate threats to his own life and the total disruption of his world.
Robert Goddard does an excellent job of taking the Liberal Government's pre-World War One constitutional crisis and making it the backdrop for his mystery. Prime Minister Asquith is not one of the most memorable of British politicians, and the crisis occasioned by Lloyd George's welfare policies is forgotten by all but those few historians specialising in the era.
Goddard, nevertheless, brings it alive and makes it both comprehensible to the non-historian and relevant to the plot. Using themes of political rivalry between Asquith, Lloyd George, and Churchill, and the radical intervention of the Suffragette movement, he constructs a highly entertaining page-turner of a novel.
He handles the exposition of the history very well. This is no fluffy 'costume drama': the themes of rivalry, jealousy, intrigue, and political manipulation are timeless, and Goddard sets them up neatly and convincingly.
His hero is flawed. He has a past ... he seems unlikely to have a future. He's no conventional thriller hero - if it came to a fight between him and an aged nun, I'd put my money on the nun. He is, effectively, a nondescript little bourgeois with contacts from his Cambridge days - he has all the social graces and some of their advantages, but he's squandered his opportunities because of his flawed character.
Goddard develops his unheroic hero quite well - this is Goddard's first novel, in later books his characterisation becomes more acutely constructed and managed. If there is a fault in this work, however, it is in the dialogue, which can be a bit sterile. Virtually all the characters talk with the same voice - polite, Oxbridge tones with little real emotion and much elaborated rationalisation.
Nevertheless, it's a very good tale, well told (in the main), and, like all good first novels, it's a useful yardstick against which to measure the writer's emergent talent. I interviewed Goddard some years ago. He's a very pleasant, articulate, knowledgeable, and likeable man - you suspect an evening in his company over a few beers would be highly entertaining. He also writes exceedingly good thrillers - very English (as a Scot, I do not always use this as a derogatory term), with an enthralling ability to grasp history and relate it to the present.
Excellent, enjoyable page-turner of a novel. Like all Goddard's works, a fine book to take away with you for a weekend or to accompany you on a long plane or train journey while an expert storyteller transports you into another world.
on 7 November 2012
Brilliant ! I have read all Robert Goddard's books but this has always remained at the number one spot with its great characterisation and complex plot which keep you hooked from start to finish. As well as being a beautifully written complex, crime mystery it is a story about honour, love and betrayal and utterly unputdownable. I cannot recommend it too highly.
on 4 February 2014
Great story. I haven't read a Robert Goddard book before and I am very much taken with his story-telling and style of writing. The story had me gripped from the start and it was a joy. However, I am SO disappointed by the number of typos and mis-spellings in the book. Never before have I read a book with so many errors. It was really off-putting. If I were Mr Goddard I would be very upset to think that my hard earned novel had been so poorly packaged. Editors, please review this edition and get it off the shelves. Isn't reading supposed to be an education as well as a pleasure? Shame on you!
This has to be one of Robert Goddard's best. I was hooked from page one, a page turner of first order. This does exactly what you want from a great book - it sucks you in and before you know it the day has melted away and you're lost in the pages. You're driven to keep turning pages to know how the story develops. Goddard proves himself as a superb storyteller.
It's easy to be a bit more critical with his more recent works, but here I can only express my admiration for his work. He is really on top of his creative capabilities.
on 12 July 2012
You too would reach the point where you were PAST CARING if the found that your perfect life had been wrenched from you; the love of your life had suddenly abandoned you and your once promising career was in tatters all for reasons unknown to you.......reasons that no one would explain but vehemently insisted were known to you.
Such is the fate of Edwin Strafford. Once a man with a promising political career as a British cabinet minister, contemporary and friend to the likes of Winston Churchill and Lloyd George, he becomes an outcast of sorts relegated to life on the island of Madeira. After his death his autobiographical memoir is found and Martin Radford, a historian with a few dark secrets of his own, is commissioned to take a copy of the memoir and attempt to reassemble the jig-saw puzzle that was Strafford's life. Radford, like many of author Goddard's protagonists, is a man without purpose or focus. He is unemployed, has an ex-wife who despises him, a daughter to whom he is a less than perfect father, and a proclivity for manipulative women whose motives are questionable.
Author Robert Goddard has once again delivered an ingenious, complex and compelling story that is filled with mystery, historical fact, political intrigue, betrayal, deception, heartbreak and murder. This book is an absolute must read for anyone who enjoys a well written narrative and a plot with as many twists and turns as a mountain road. Be prepared to lose some sleep because PAST CARING will have you reading well into the wee small hours of the morning.
on 6 January 2012
I was slightly sceptical about this book but the sample on my Kindle persuaded me to buy it. The plot is complex and requires the reader's attention. However, the writing is of a surprisingly high quality, with the vocabulary and grammar completely in keeping with the time in which the story takes place. (I was there in those days). The result is a vivid vision of the setting in Madeira and of England at that time. I had trouble putting the book down as the complex plot evolved. The main character is an anti-hero with a good head and a basic integrity who has compromised his professional and personal futures because his main weakness is that he lets his `little head' do the thinking. The book contains a single love scene which impressed me because it was very erotic without a hint of squalor and it was very material to the plot. The outcome of the story is both satisfying (happy) and haunting, with future possibilities. I usually read crime novels but this has got my attention and I will definitely be looking for more of this author's work. I should also mention that my Kindle version had a surprising number of spelling mistakes.
on 26 March 2011
Past Caring is my third and final book in the Great Transworld Crime Caper. The previous two books were easy picks, because I knew when I saw the subjects I definitely wanted to read those. The last book though was a tough choice, mostly because there were some amazing sounding books to choose from. In the end I picked Robert Goddard's book because it had a historical slant to it. And it turned out to be a good choice. The book is a fat novel, clocking in at 623 pages, but I had a hard time putting the novel down and letting go of the story, when I had to do other stuff.
The setting and concept are interesting. I always love a story within a story and with Stafford's Memoir we get exactly that. The parts of the book set in 1910, even though they do not concern real people, ring true and conjured Edwardian London in all of its tumultuous glory. For me, Martin's part of the story read a little historical as well, as it's set two years before I was born. It was funny to read about a world where not only did not everyone have a mobile phone, but not everyone had a land line either. The juxtaposition between the contemporary feel of the narrative and those reminders that this was 1977 instead of 2007, never once truly jarred me out the story, it is more a testament to Mr Goddard's wonderful writing.
Martin is the ultimate flawed protagonist. He has a scandal in his past, a weakness for alcohol, and is more inclined to take the easiest or most pleasurable path than doing what is right. He's a man adrift in the world and he seems not totally convinced he should be looking for an anchor. Despite all this, he is sympathetic and he seems redeemable, which in the end, in a way, he is. Martin finds an anchor in the memoir of Edwin Stafford, a man his total opposite: brave, courageous, honourable, ethical and choosing the hard way if it means doing what is right. Martin gets caught up by the Memoir's mystery and through his quest to solve it, Martin needs to confront the flaws in his own character and comes to take Edwin's goals as his own.
The novel is pervaded with a sense of unease. It's clear no one is what they seem to be and they all have hidden motives. This serves to keep the reader on her toes and kept me questioning most of the conclusions Martin draws about people. The one main character in the book that is exactly what he seems to be, is Edwin Stafford. Even his nephew Ambrose is more than the curmudgeonly drunk he seems when we meet him. The leading ladies in this book are one of its strengths; Elizabeth is awesome, such a strong and gentle woman, and Eve is such a delicious villain, living up to all the historical connotations of her name. Goddard's characters are well drawn and come to life, both the good and the bad; they all are coloured in shades of grey, only coming into full focus and shading at the end of the story. And even then, after I'd closed the covers, I found myself wondering about some of them.
Past Caring is a crime novel where the crime is not at the heart of the story, in my opinion. Yes, there is a mystery, a large one, which requires solving, but to me it was a tale about love, honour and whether sometimes keeping a secret is preferable to revealing the truth. The answer may surprise you, I know it surprised me. I've been very lucky, all the books I picked for my Crime Caper challenge were excellent and I truly enjoyed them, but unexpectedly this one is my favourite. Mr Goddard knows how to write an engrossing tale and I'm glad that there are plenty more for me to catch up on.
This book was sent to me for review as part of the Great Transworld Crime Caper.
on 19 March 2012
I have thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a detective type story without the usual PI stereotype. Instead features a young historian retained to dig into the past of a disgraced, early 1900s, MP. Lots of familiar locations added to the enjoyment for me. The only downside is the very poor proof reading in the last third of the book which does irritate - a real pity and means I have knocked a star off.
on 1 November 2013
Recently read my first Robert Goddard book - Blood Count, which was great, so thought I would try to read as many of his books as possible, starting with Past Caring which I think was his first.
Brilliantly written, each time I put it down I couldn't wait to get back to it. This rates as one of the best books I have ever read.