A Mickey Finn of a book, a knockout brew Of spilled blood, ripe bosoms (one of Fr. Greeley's favorite images), sizzling...



A Mickey Finn of a book, a knockout brew Of spilled blood, ripe bosoms (one of Fr. Greeley's favorite images), sizzling suspense, and swirls of Irish mist, by the tarttongued imp of American letters. Once again, Greeley blends impressions of Irish-Catholic life with pot-boiler staples (mad dog terrorist, Mystery Woman, sexual obsession)--but this time, a sympathetic narrator makes for a winner. Brendan Ryan, a shy, sedate Chicago attorney, watches his world spin madly off its axis one day when he encounters, in Dufficy's Irish Store, a gorgeous clerk named Clara Kelly. The chemistry is instant (although the prose is ersatz): ""There was, even then, an electric current of hot sexuality leaping back and forth between us, like lightening dancing on Lake Michigan during a storm."" The first half of the novel cross-cuts between this cliched romance--the couple bounces in bed to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring--and Ryan's reminiscences of doomed childhood friends, battles in Vietnam, etc. As one might expect in a Greeley novel, the idyll blows up in Ryan's face--as does a boat in Lake Michigan, killing Ryan's ex-wife and a libidinous priest. The blast, it seem's, was meant for Ryan and Clara, who is really Clare Kennan, ex-IRA operative, now on the run from a Carlos-like killer. Clara/Clare disappears, and when Ryan attempts to find her, he discovers that all traces of her identity have been erased. Did he conjure her up from his fantasies? Not impossible, for Walter Mitty-ish Ryan is actually a sort of Windy City Dr. Strange, in possession of remarkable psychic powers. Ryan's search for Ciara, with his nubile daughter Jean in tow, eventually leads him to Ireland and a gory finale with the IRA. Pulp adventure, then, but elevated by Greeley's intelligent, ironic voice, appealing characters and cracking tension, especially in the last 100 pages. This paen to the lusts of spring will make absorbing winter reading.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 1987


Page Count: -

Publisher: Warner

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1987