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Long Time Coming    by Robert Goddard order for
Long Time Coming
by Robert Goddard
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2010 (2010)
Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Long Time Coming, Robert Goddard dangles an elusive puzzle in front of readers, that of the 1940 incarceration of Eldritch Swan - 'of the exotic Christian name and raffish reputation' - in an Irish prison. Told all his life that his uncle died in the Blitz, Stephen Swan is shocked to find the elderly gentleman staying with his mother after his unexpected release. His uncle keeps mum about his jail term, explaining that 'it was a condition of his release that he say nothing about the circumstances leading to his imprisonment.'

Stephen, a geologist, has just returned to Paignton, Devon from Texas, after ending his engagement and resigning from his job. He's decided to take a sabbatical and help his mother with her guesthouse, but instead gets embroiled in his uncle's unfinished business. A solicitor contacts Eldritch and offers him a tidy sum 'to prove the Picassos in the Brownlow Collection were stolen from a man called Isaac Meridor. In 1940.' It turns out that Eldritch, who once worked for Meridor, knows the Picassos were stolen, but proving it is another matter. Eldritch, needing 'a young pair of legs - and lungs', asks for his nephew's help.

Stephen's enthusiasm for the task increases exponentially after he meets Meridor's granddaughter, American Rachel Banner. Also on the trail of the stolen art, Rachel is obsessed with winning justice for her family. As they seek proof of World War II shenanigans, Robert Goddard takes readers back and forth in time, gradually revealing all that led up to this point. There are smuggled diamonds, a crooked art dealer, an IRA member who's a 'brilliant copyist', a British diplomat and spymaster, and dangerous wartime secrets that someone with a great deal of clout wants kept under wraps.

Robert Goddard's Long Time Coming is a subtle and intelligent thriller, masterfully told, and with a satisfying ending in which its various and sundry characters get (more or less) what they deserve. Don't miss it!

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