Perhaps more than any other series-detective writer these days, gifted stylist Gill often seems uncomfortable with the mystery form, straining to write a rangier sort of psychological/political suspense; and this intriguing, uneven, convoluted novel is his uneasiest mixture yet--with Dublin's Chief Inspector McGarr performing a contrived, unconvincing role. Circa 1986 a Belfast-born cameraman (whose mother died in 1971 violence) and an Irish actor have teamed up in an elaborate conspiracy--the details of which remain enigmatic--to assassinate Rev. Ian Paisley and thus effect a jolting change in the Northern Ireland situation. One of their co-conspirators is ex-rugby star Jock Duncan, a Dublin banker supplying (for mysterious reasons) computer-facilities to the scheme. And when an internal squabble leads to Duncan's murder, Inspector McGarr enters the picture, his investigations leading him to uncover the conspiracy and foil the assassination--but only after he's been captured by the villains, roughed up, and fired from his job (for going beyond the call of duty). In outline, then, this is a standard countdown/assassination-scheme thriller. Along the way, however, Gill gets caught up in a network of half-satisfying subplots and character-portraits--some of them interestingly textured, some of them merely distracting, with the only mystery involving a Hitchcock-twist in the assassination plot. So, though powerful in some of its political moments, this brooding thriller is unfocused and occasionally hard-to-follow: a finely written yet largely ineffectual hybrid, suggesting that Gill should perhaps leave McGarr behind and attempt a mainstream political suspense-novel.