A man hoping to make sense of his wife’s death in Ireland winds up in the middle of an Irish Republican Army splinter group’s struggle against British forces in Sullivan’s debut thriller.
U.S. college professor Mick McKenna heads to Belfast, where his photojournalist wife, Sarah, died from a car bomb while on their honeymoon. It’s 1998, and Mick wants to learn more about the ongoing Troubles, which may help him understand the reason for Sarah’s death or perhaps come to terms with it. He stays with distant relatives, nationalists who, like the IRA, support the removal of British rule in Ireland. But it’s an IRA splinter group that Mick has to worry about. Members of the New Republican Brotherhood, who reject the country’s proposed peace plan, hold Mick hostage after he witnesses a murder. His only chance of staying alive, it seems, is to aid the group in a terrorist strike. The author tells two stories. The first is of the Irish-American widower learning about his heritage; the second is a taut thriller. The novel starts slow but builds: Mick’s needs for answers and apparent vengeance for his wife’s murder gradually wane as he garners an appreciation and respect for Ireland’s political circumstances. Once the New Republican Brotherhood enters the story, there are unmistakable villains, and tensions skyrocket when the group sends Mick to New York to extract info for finalizing a sale of surface-to-air missiles. Despite the two narratives, Sullivan clearly has a cohesive tale. FBI Special Agent Cecil Maxwell, for one, is working a case on the gunrunning IRA in the States, which ultimately connects to Mick’s predicament. Mick’s love of Sarah is likewise a persistent theme: the hint of attraction and possible romance between Mick and Jillian Morrissey in Ireland seems to keep Mick focused on his late wife. The final act, in contrast to the beginning’s unhurried pace, practically sprints to the end, while the quiet epilogue is a fine coda.
Rich in its historical Irish
backdrop while delivering the genre goods.