All Our Yesterdays by Robert B. Parker (1994)
Parker's most famous creation is Boston PI and lovesick tough guy Spenser. He has written four other series, all of which have risen to one degree or another of popularity: the Jesse Stone series, about an alcoholic and lovesick small town police chief; the Sunny Randall series, originally written as a vehicle for actress Helen Hunt, about a female Boston PI and lovesick tough girl (who, for a while, knocked boots with Jesse Stone); and the Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch western series, about a lovesick marshal and his deputy. He's also written several young adult novels and four stand-alones. The stand-alones include the dog-ugly Love and Honor (about which the less said the better), a fairly decent novel about Wyatt Earp, a suspense novel featuring Jackie Robinson, and this book.
All Our Yesterdays may have been intended as Parker's BIG book. It's almost twice as long as his other books and the relative lack of white space and wide margins seem to indicate that this is something special for Parker. Plus, it's a multi-generational saga involving a family of Boston cops.
We start off with Conn Sheridan, a brave and dedicated member of the IRA in 1920 Ireland. Conn's service to the cause allows him to rise quickly among the ranks and soon brings him close to the IRA's top leadership. Conn soon begins an affair with the young wife of a Boston Brahmin in Ireland to oversee a family business. The affair soon turns to an obsession and Conn begs the woman to run off with him; he's even willing to abandon the IRA to be with her. She, however, cannot leave her position of wealth and rebukes him. When Conn persists, she informs on him with the British police, and so Conn is jailed and will soon hang.
The betrayal has changed Conn. He's lost his soul and now has nothing to live for. When the IRA breaks him out of jail, he goes to America -- to Boston -- and joins the police force to become a cop who doesn't care whether he lives or dies. Eventually he meets his former lover and discovers that her now-adult son is a pederast and murderer. Using this information as a lever, he blackmails the woman to have a long-term and degrading affair with him.
Conn's son Gus also becomes a Boston cop. Following his father's death, he discovers his father's evidence against the child molester-murderer. Blackmail evidently is embedded in the Sheridan genes because Gus uses this information to extort money on a regular basis.
Gus' son Chris has no desire to become a cop. Instead, he gets a law degree and later becomes a criminal psychiatrist. He also hooks up with Grace, the pederast's daughter. Some cogs slip in Grace's father's brain and he begins molesting and killing children again. Grace's brother is beginning a run for a US senate seat; his biggest opponent is Boston's mayor. In a political move, the mayor appoints Chris to lead the investigation into the recent murders.
Did I mention that Chris is lovesick? No? Well, you knew that anyway because that's a common theme of Parker's -- love and the compromises one has to make in its name.
So, three generations of two families tied together by fate and an ungodly amount of coincidence. If this was to be Parker's magnum opus, he should have made it even longer. I lost count of the major plot points that were glossed over from one chapter to the next -- we just skip right over them and continue as if they had happened. There is some decent action, a few plot twists, and some interesting characterization. Overall, it's a pretty good read if one ignores the lovesick relationships (especially of Chris and Grace) and the all-over-the-place plot jumpiness.
All Our Yesterdays highlights Parker's faults as a writer. Luckily, it also highlights his virtues.