duVal’s debut begins in 1928 with an identity change for Klaus Altman, whose ties to the Philadelphia mob forces him to go undercover as Max Anders, future husband of Galena Baldwin. No angel herself, the-year-old Galena, deceived in a dark alley, finds herself pregnant. She blackmails Max into marriage. They move away together, to escape the unwanted attentions of her stepfather and the Mafia. and live unhappily ever after. When Erik is born, his red hair sours any maternal feelings Galena might have had; she loathes her child on sight, as he is a reminder of the man who seduced her. A boozy calm ensues as Max, Galena and Erik negotiate various forms of a separate peace. And there’s music, by way of Erik’s grandmother, an opera singer, and Erik's musical genius. But then the past catches up with them; sexy, sinister Trouper Pete, another of Galena’s ersatz involvements, makes things more difficult, as does the charmingly evil Det. Wakely. Bodies turn up, lies and debauchery take their toll. As Erik’s home life disintegrates, his sexuality burgeons; he takes up with wise young Allen at university and even more complexities of the sexual, familial and social sorts arise. Ultimately, in a delightful twist, Erik’s dream to become a symphony orchestra conductor comes true while he serves in the Army during the Korean conflict,. duVal’s intricate plotting, and concern for even the most troubled of his characters and their twisted relationships are the real payoff; Galena may be a manipulative harridan, but she’s a fascinating wreck whose every action enthralls. And son Erik could charm the pants off, well, anyone he likes.
An engrossing read.