Tapes of the River Delta

Overview

Trapped in the Turmoil of covert political corruption, Theo Shortcourse finally commits the vengeful murder that has been preordained since his early childhood. Now running for his life - hiding out in a vast river delta deep in Ireland - Theo reveals, on the spools of a hand-held tape recorder, the strange and chilling history that has brought him as a fugitive to this place. Tapes of the River Delta cunningly ensnares us in the harrowing, though often darkly humorous fate of Theo, Bain Cross, his cousin and ...
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Overview

Trapped in the Turmoil of covert political corruption, Theo Shortcourse finally commits the vengeful murder that has been preordained since his early childhood. Now running for his life - hiding out in a vast river delta deep in Ireland - Theo reveals, on the spools of a hand-held tape recorder, the strange and chilling history that has brought him as a fugitive to this place. Tapes of the River Delta cunningly ensnares us in the harrowing, though often darkly humorous fate of Theo, Bain Cross, his cousin and lifelong nemesis, and Theo's closest friend Pax Sheehy, who is the moral guardian to their generation. It is these three lives that become inextricably woven together in a tangled web of vicious ambition, death, dementia, sexual desire, and loss. Overshadowing it all is the haunting omnipresence of Sparrow, the woman Theo has always believed to be his mother and the victim of a buried crime so devastating that, even a generation later, no one dares to speak of it.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
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.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.)
Mary Ellen Quinn
Cunningham's novel, spanning almost the entire twentieth century, delineates the story of one family against the tumultuous background of Irish history. Theo Shortcourse begins his story when he is in his sixties, having recently escaped from a mental hospital where he was being held for observation for committing murder. Theo grows up believing he is the son of Sparrow Love Shortcourse, who comes from a well-off merchant family, and Pa Shortcourse, a butcher, famous as the hero of the legendary Deilt Ambush. Theo's closest childhood friend, Bain Cross, is the son of his much older sister Mag. Once grown, Bain enters politics, eventually becoming prime minister. Theo finds a job in the Monument Customs and Excise Office, gradually rising to the post of superintendent. Both in their personal and professional lives, Theo's and Bain's paths keep crossing, for they are bound not only by genealogy but also by convoluted politics. There are many mysteries, and the suspense is maintained by a narrative that shifts back and forth in time. This is a skillful production, written in prose that has a trace of Irish lilt.
Kirkus Reviews
The knotted history of a modern Irish family is embedded in a quasi-political debut thriller, a combination providing less than stellar results.

Sixtyish and desperate, Theo Shortcourse is hiding from the police in the river marshes near his childhood home, recording the brutal chronicle of his life on a tape recorder. Theo describes his rather idyllic childhood on the river with his best friend Pax and his nephew (though they're of the same age) Bain. Theo lives with his mother Sparrow in the grand house built by her father, Sammy Tea, while Bain lives with his drunken mother in a slum with Sparrow's long-estranged husband, Pa Shortcourse. Close as boys, the three choose very different paths in adulthood: Pax, the most moral of the three, joins the Guards while Theo, rejecting work in his father's sausage business, goes into a government post in Customs. Bain takes over Pa Shortcourses's butcher shop and begins grooming himself, with all the cunning wit of a street hustler, for a career in politics. Intermingled with Theo's narrative of these lives is the melodramatic history of his family, a record filled with incest, betrayal, and insanity. Pa Shortcourse, hailed as a hero in the Irish struggle for independence, is exposed as a liar and thief. Sammy Tea, Theo's grandfather, disappeared into a madhouse after impregnating his daughter—resulting in the birth of Sparrow. The three old friends eventually find themselves locked in a lethal conflict. Bain, now prime minister, blackmails Theo to help him pass missiles intended for the IRA through customs. Pax, determined to expose them, is hot on their trail.

Though undeniable voyeuristic interest is created in the revelation of Shortcourse family secrets, the political aspect feels tacked on to support a narrative that tends toward the tedious and rambling.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312140519
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1996
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.84 (h) x 1.19 (d)

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