Tapes of the River Delta

Robert Mickey, Author, Peter Cunningham, Author
Robert Mickey, Author, Peter Cunningham, Author St. Martin's Press $23.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-14051-9
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Like Robert B. Parker before him (in 1994's All Our Yesterdays), Cunningham slips away from formula fiction (in his case, thrillers like All Risks Mortality, 1988) to deliver a multigenerational saga. Setting his tale in both Ireland and America, Cunningham uses crime, politics and family tragedy to explore the Irish soul. But where the creator of Spenser got mired in blarney, Cunningham manages a marvelously lyrical, powerfully erotic story. Narrator Theo Shortcourse has committed murder. As he hides from his pursuers in an Irish river delta, he thinks back on his life and those of his ancestors. For most of his privileged days, Theo has been haunted by uncertainty about his parentage and by the preference of his mother, Sparrow, for his lifelong nemesis: his nephew Bain, three years older than he and ""better at everything."" As a young man, Theo loses (through his mother's manipulations) the serving girl with whom he is having his first satisfactory sexual relationship. He then marries Bain's sex-obsessed mistress, Juliet-who later runs away with another man. In time, Theo rises to a powerful government position, only to be seduced by a married British woman. Although he is warned that she is using him to spy on Bain, who has become Ireland's prime minister, Theo refuses to give the woman up-a decision that eventually leads to the crime that sends him on the lam. With the figurative blood of Irish saints and sinners, Cunningham paints a dark and compelling canvas that writhes with incest, betrayal, spiritual and political bankruptcy-and the blasted hopes of 20th-century Ireland. (Mar.)
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