THE VOICE by Colm Connolly


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Middling suspenser that mixes a standard heist-yarn (art museum break-in) with visceral horror (an outbreak of rabies). Charles Casswell, a homosexual English actor, receives an anonymous phone call hiring him to perform an unspecified job for 10,000 pounds. Carl Stolford, a bitter Vietnam vet tending bar in Brooklyn, finds a cassette in the mail (shades of Mission Impossible!) offering him $1.5 million for a similar deal. Peter Edward Phelan, an alcoholic ex-con, locates his cassette under a trash can. It turns out that this crew of outcasts has been employed by The Voice (of cassette and telephone) to pull off ""the largest single haul of art treasures in history"": the pinching of Ireland's top art masterpieces from the National Museum in Dublin. Meanwhile, Stolford is instructed to disguise himself as a priest, travel to France, and pick up a small blue vial filled with creamy liquid. Unbeknownst to him, the bottle contains rabies toxin--The Voice intends to trigger an epidemic as a cover for the heist. Soon descriptions of the outlaw band's maneuvers alternate with grisly accounts of rabid battles between cat and dog, dog and boy, woman and nurse. After the second or third time that salivating jaws crunch through bone, the violence feels cynically tossed in to please the carnivores (and speaking of gratuitousness: in a book with almost no women characters, Connolly actually resorts to a dream sequence to throw in some graphic sex). The theft itself is a complicated affair involving diving equipment, fake army patrols, booby-trapped security systems, and a nail-biting escape through Dublin's sewer system. As in most thrillers of this type, the crooks wind up hoisted by their own petard; the revelation of The Voice's identity, while a surprise, seems too illogical to justify all the commotion. This reads like two half-novels stitched together in a calculated attempt to please everyone. Too bad--the heist scenes can stand by themselves, and should have been allowed to do so.

Pub Date: July 15th, 1986
Publisher: Beaufort