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by Patrick Redmond
Simon and Schuster, February 2006
368 pages
ISBN: 0743219961

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Lawyer-turned-novelist Patrick Redmond has previously proved himself a master at creating damaged people and in ALL SHE EVER WANTED he proves that mastery once more. While the first part deals with the early life and emotional crippling of Christina Ryan, a second emotionally impaired soul, Alexander Gallen, is introduced later in the novel and inevitably the lives of Chrissie and Alexander become inextricably entwined, for better or worse.

The prologue, set in 2004, lets the reader know that a horrible crime has been committed as police interview a suspect, but it doesn't permit the reader to know the identity of the suspect nor even the crime. Thus, instead of a whodunit we have a whodunwot.

Christina Ryan is a seven-year-old in 1987. She adores her father and is determined that she and Pete Ryan will one day sail on a boat she will own. Then the unthinkable happens: Ryan shucks his family, leaving behind only a 15-word farewell note.

Tina's mother blames the child for his desertion but Tina is certain her dad will return and faithfully awaits him. At school she is the butt of everyone's cruel jokes and taunts; no one wishes to be her friend, despite her obvious intelligence and talent. All she wants is the return of her father and to be unnoticed, fading into the background, until his return.

This situation continues until the taunts and gibes finally become too much and Tina rebels, terrifying those who used to terrify her. Tina learns to harness hatred and turn it to her advantage as she finds she is able to devastate others using her words alone. As she discovers undreamt of skills and confidence, Tina becomes Chrissie, the woman who, not very long after Tina disappears, sweeps all before her although at times the much hated memory and figure of Tina reappears momentarily.

Chrissie is never happy with a man. She takes them up, controls them, then drops them -- until she meets barman Jack, a man who resembles her long-lost father physically as well as in his habits. She falls in love and is devastated when he returns to the woman he really loves. Chrissie, meanwhile, has met millionaire and society figure Alec, whose name has been romantically linked with fashion model Evelyne. Alec becomes besotted with Chrissie, unfortunately for both of them.

Redmond paints a poignant and heartbreaking picture of a child who suffers emotional torment from every side: deserted by her father, apparently hated by her mother and despised by her contemporaries. Each cut wounds the reader so that when the child learns her own power, the reader must cheer her on.

Not quite as powerfully drawn is the history given to Alec Gallen. Still, the sketch of damage done to produce someone with such controlled emotions is almost convincing. The idea of leaving the reader wondering until late in the piece as to who did what to whom is a good strategy.

Unfortunately, while the tale begins well, it tends to drag in the middle and becomes just a bit tedious. Regardless, the story is a good one, with plenty to keep the reader guessing almost to the end. And does Chrissie get all she ever wanted? Read it and see.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, April 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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