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From the reigning doyenne of police procedurals, another (The Scalpel and the Sword, etc.) dull, plodding historical--this one set in 1651 in an Ireland ravaged by the Settlement Act, an English policy that Shannon makes clear was genocidal. Fergal O'Breslin, clan chieftain, escapes from the Aran Islands, the last holdout of the Irish against Cromwell's armies, and makes his way home, joining up with a stray monk, Hugh, who informs him of the terms of the Settlement Act imposed by the British. All Irish men must leave the country or accept resettlement to remote Connaught. Fergal, responsible for a household--including his dead brother's betrothed, spirited Nessa O'Rafferty--accepts resettlement. His chum, Roy Donlevy, goes abroad to serve as a mercenary, leaving his wife and young son in Fergal's care. Once settled in Connaught, Fergal and neighbor Kevin McCann become raiders, swooping down over the border and stealing from the English. But Kevin goes bad, and when confronted by Fergal, guns him down and departs, leaving behind his long-suffering wife to enjoy true love with ex-monk Hugh and suffer ostracism from the neighbors. Fergal recovers, nursed by Nessa, whom he has married to atone for a desperate one-night fling. Eventually, they move back across the border, avoiding patrols that are scooping up healthy young men, women, and children to ship as slaves to the West Indies, and become tenants of an absentee English landlord. Ray Donlevy, supposedly dead in action, returns in time to kill the English factor who's taken his wife as concubine, help Fergal avenge himself on Kevin, and provide passage to Rhode Island, where they can find freedom. To imitate the lilt of Irish--there are plenty of dashes--like this--sometimes six to a sentence--which gets to be annoying--and plenty of sentence fragments, too. All in all, a book without much uplift, but memorable for its stark portrait of a little-known period in Irish history.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1988
Publisher: Morrow