Set in Philadelphia, this is a gripping tale of crime, family and race that stretches over three generations. It begins with the murder of two cops, one white and one black, who are sitting in a bar in civilian clothes one afternoon in 1965. Dead are Stan Walczak and his partner, George Wildey.
Walczak leaves a young son, Jimmy, who grows up to be a cop like his father. Thirty years later, he's a homicide detective who's still obsessed by his father's murder. No one was ever charged and convicted of the two killings, but Jim Walczak is firmly convinced that the shooter was a snitch named Terrill Lee Stanton was supposed to meet his father and Wildey in the bar that afternoon. Stanton has been in jail for a very long time, tried and convicted of another crime, but he has recently been released and is living in a halfway house. What, if anything, to do with Stanton is now the question that haunts Jim Walczak.
Jim Walczak, in turn, has a son named Stas who will follow him into the department. He also has a daughter, Audrey, and by 2005, Audrey is enrolled in CSI school and is set on becoming a forensic scientist. Along the way, though, she's become the black sheep of the family. She's living in Houston, is drinking way too much, and has pretty much screwed up her life. But in 2005, the city of Philadelphia decides to erect a plaque on the site where her grandfather and his partner were killed. It's going to be an important moment for the family and, against her better judgment, Audrey flies back to Philadelphia for the ceremony.
As the novel progresses, Swierczynski follows the progress of the three main characters, moving back in time to the point where Stan Walczak and George Wildey were first partnered together during riots in the 1960s. He jumps back and forth from 1965 to 1995 to 2005, alternating chapters among the three main characters.
It's a fascinating story about the way in which a single event can affect the trajectory of a family's life for several generations and about the ways in which the various members of the family deal with the consequences of those few fatal moments that still reverberate fifty years later. It's also a very compelling crime drama that will involve several different investigations. The characters are very well drawn; the settings and the history seem right on target, and all in all, this is another great read from the man who burst onto the scene ten years ago with The Wheelman: A Novel.