cover image The Red Men

The Red Men

Patrick McGinley. St. Martin's Press, $15.95 (297pp) ISBN 978-0-312-00180-3

When innkeeper Gulban Heron tells his four sons of their strong-willed, red-haired ancestors, he clearly doubts his brood will come up to snuff. On his 77th birthday, Gulban doles out money to his offspring and sets a day when he will judge its investment. His favorite son dies, leaving the field to sour Joey, who dabbles in all things scientific, Father Bosco, conniving for the good of God, and Cookie, a dreamer. Binding them all together is Pauline, the dead son's fiancee, who virtually ignores the emotional hunger that surrounds her. While Gulban weakens, the brothers jockey for undeserved rewards. Passages not enlivened by the sardonic wit that McGinley demonstrated in Bogmail and Goosefoot sometimes threaten to slide off into tedium, but McGinley adeptly positions dangerous shoals of guilt and lies under a deceptive, dreamlike calm. (February 27)