A first novel by the Irish correspondent for the Guardian about (what else?) an Irish reporter--here, one who follows a tip about a madman shooting a dog in Dun Loghaire and ends up investigating the mysterious drowning of backbencher Maurice Clark. What made Clark kill the dog (if he did) minutes before his own death? Where did he get the weapon, an American revolver that the police have traced to the IRA? And what should down-at-the-heels reporter Seamus Ryle make of the forged committee report Clark was carrying--a report that, by recommending that Ireland consider entering NATO, would imperil the republic's tradition of military neutrality and cause it implicitly to accept its present political boundaries? These are promising questions, and the people whom reporter Ryle looks to for answers--oily uranium magnate Mike Erlanger; Clark's embittered mistress, Rosie Gantly; scheming politicos Tommy Lyster and Jim Whelan; imperious Police Inspector William Devane; and freelancing Sergeant Peter Grifford--are all drawn with impressive realism as Joyce keeps threats of violence bubbling his pot without making it boil over. But realism also deepsixes Joyce's plot complicatiens: the conflicts and contradictions of Clark's survivors never build to a climax, and mystery and suspense both peter out in a trail of uncertainties and half-truths. Timely and twisty but weakly imagined in its plot, this not-such-a-thriller still offers an unmatched picture of the kinds of difficulties investigative journalists face in building their stories while staying out of jail or cemetery.