On a winter night in a Bronx neighbourhood, a blow from a shovel fells a man in the street. From the scene flee six children, any of whom might have loosed the fatal strike. Weeks later, one of their fathers is executed for the crime.
Four decades on, the Ryer Avenue gang gathers again: Megan Magee, Charley and Eugene O'Brien, Ben Herskel and Dante D'Angelo; the group is missing only Willie Paycek, the little hanger-on who never fitted in. But now that fatal blow is about to come crashing down upon them - and this time, Willie is calling the shots.
Veteran police novelist Uhnak ( Law and Order ; The Investigation ) leaves the precinct house behind as she traces the lives of six Bronx neighborhood kids--boys and girls, Polish, Italian, Irish, Jewish--in this oddly unfocused tale, which unfolds over four decades. An act of violence binds them together: on a snowy night in 1935 they beat a hostile drunk with a shovel. Even though one of their fathers is convicted and executed for killing the man, the children continue to keep their secret. Through WW II, the Cold War and the 1960s, Uhnak follows their intersecting paths from Hollywood to Europe to Washington, D.C., to Manhattan and back to Ryer Avenue in the Bronx, where it all began. A prominent psychiatrist, a U.S. senator, a heroic fireman, a Roman Catholic bishop, an Israeli statesman and an international movie mogul, they are an ambitious and successful group, each with his or her own trials and tragedies. But Uhnak makes none of these colorful protagonists consistently real and convincing. At times their lives are unique and compelling, but more often they are derived from familiar ethnic stereotypes or simplistic psychology. Because the plot is spread out among them--and among generations of their family and friends--the narrative loses any center. When their youthful crime resurfaces after 40 years it seems irrelevant, a clumsy device to bring them together and end the book.