A KIND OF SLEEP by Chris Ould


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Here, Ould discards the futuristic milieu of his first novel, Road Lines (p. 586), for present-day London and a man caught on the low-budget fringe of an endless war. Joe Lame was a carrier (arms smuggler) for the IRA. He's retired from active duty-after an (unexplained) prison term and an (undescribed) accident that's left his left hand mutilated. Now, he passes his days helping out at a slow-paced South London scrapyard and storing in-transit arms for the cause. He's perpetually observant, thoroughly competent, but his life is deliberately spare. Then a friend, Danny Mallon, is IRA-executed, shortly after sending his worldly goods (cash and heroin) to Larne for safekeeping. Lame sells MalloWs drugs (and gives the cash to his widow) and begins, quite blatantly, to poke into his death. His miffed bosses strong-arm him into another carrying mission. But Lame has his own plans for the explosives he's meant to pick up, and sets off on a freelance--and self-consciously suicidal--terrorist spree. Ould's prose, though less Chandler-derivative than it was in Road Lines, remains cool, stylish, unswervingly sure. And the suspense-action plot contributes to the carefully underdone character study: Lame seems most alive, most realized, during sleepless days and nights on the road. But Ould carefully avoids easy motivational hooks (we learn almost nothing about Larne's past or his politics) with mixed success. The novel is as secretive as its hero, and this no-questions-answered narrative ultimately both frustrates and strikes deep.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1987
Publisher: Andre Deutsch--dist. by David & Charles