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Friday, December 31, 2004

All Our Yesterdays by Robert Parker

Surprise, surprise, a Robert Parker that does not feature Hawk or Spencer and does not even have a private detective. I think this is one of his best yet. Spanning three generations it follows the men of the Sheridan family, greatly flawed, who seek to redeem themselves of an obsession for violence and corruption that becomes a hex. Their lives all become entwined with the Winslows, to the detriment of all.

Conn Sheridan, the patriarch, is a young sniper for the IRA. He is assigned the assassination of an English politician. After being sold out by Hadley Winslow, his married lover, he escapes from British prison just before he is to be shot, and leaves for America. He becomes a cop, a rather corrupt one at that, whose son Gus inherits, or assumes, that corruptness but doesn't want it to singe his son Chris.

The story is told through a variety of perspectives, starting with conversations between Chris and his girlfriend Grace, the daughter of Tom Winslow, Hadley's son. Tom has a nsty secret. As a teenager, he had raped and killed a young girl, a crime that was covered up by Conn, who used the information to blackmail Hadley into resuming their affair. Conn passed along evidence of Tom's pedophilia – Tom had been sent to a private clinic in Switzerland as part of the deal with Hadley to hush up the murder – to Gus, who continued to use it as a hold over Tom, now returned from his Swiss hiatus and manager of a large bank. Gus has also been on the take from two Irish crime families and is using Tom's bank to launder their ill-gotten gains.

It all comes crashing down when one of the henchmen of the crime families is gunned down and an innocent school girl is killed in the cross-fire. Gus's soon, Chris, is appointed by the mayor, Parnell Flaherty, a candidate for the Senate seat also sought by Cabot Winslow, Grace's sister (it does get rather intertwined,) as special prosecutor to end the crime war between the two families. Gus, realizing that the only way he can help his son succeed is by revealing everything, warns the crime bosses that he is changing sides. This pressures Tom into killing two more young girls and the Sheridans and Winslows are soon revealed to be mired in corruption. Only Chris and Grace appear to have achieved some form of salvation through the efforts of Gus and Laura, Grace's mother, who realize that only through their sacrifice can the two children escape the insidious effects of bad marriages and corruption their families have become mired in.
It all sounds a bit coincidental and too intertwined, but Parker has skillfully woven a story that cannot be put down.
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