Author: William Peter Grasso
Reviewed By: Tara Fox Hall
Rating: 5 stars
This book begins in 1944 in the midst of WWII, with a feud between two men: the cowardly Captain Leonard Pilcher and Fred O’Hara, an airman from Pilcher’s crew. After completion of an air mission, Pilcher enlists his crew to desert to Sweden instead of returning to base. Unwilling to desert, Fred and two of his friends bail out of the plane instead. One is killed, and the Fred and his remaining crewman Lou are taken captive by Germans. Fred swears vengeance, of course. But first he has to make it out of Germany. And he’s not the only one angry at Pilcher’s cowardice. The small remaining crew that crashed with Pilcher in Sweden aren’t too fond of their captain, either, even if they’ve been spared the horrors of combat. But after one man commits suicide, one is sent home because of injuries, and another is killed by Pilcher himself, the remaining one, Joseph, also wants justice. But complicating the scene is Joseph’s torrid affair with Pola, a Swedish native who oversees both the Allied and Axis troops that coming into Sweden’s borders. Even though Joe and Pola personally witness Pilcher murder his crewman, they say nothing, trying to protect Pola’s job and status.
Forward 20 years to the 60s. Fred is high in the union ranks, Lou is a Mafioso, Pilcher is a congressman being pushed by his father to run for president, and Joe is a teacher who dreams of Pola while still immersed in a dead end marriage to his wife who shares none of Pola’s adventurous appetites.
Everything comes to a head when Fred is told by his boss that he must endorse Pilcher as the presidential candidate. Fred decides that it’s finally time for vengeance, and enlists Lou and Joe as allies. But as before, the three friends have a lot to lose, and must weigh justice for Pilcher against their desire to protect the new lives they have built postwar.
I wanted Pilcher dead by page 18, so the author did a good job of making him hateable. But there were no purely good characters or purely bad ones. This was exceedingly well written, keeping me captivated and dying to keep reading, even if it was late and I was dead tired. The sex between Pola and Joe was red hot, the dialogue was funny, yet spot on, and the characterizations were so complex that the main characters were more real than the people I spoke to today. I was surprised sometimes by the plot twists, when the author took the book in an unexpected, exciting direction. By the time I neared the end, I wasn’t sure if Pilcher was going to end up punished or unpunished, as the title of the book implies. My one regret was that all the adult characters were very self-serving, thinking of their own interests first instead of what was morally right. But I have to admit, the characters were more believable because of this.
Overall opinion. A great read, with more sharp twists and exhilarating turns than a mountain road. 5 stars!
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