A debut novel about an Irish-American ex-con combines the appeal of the thriller and noir fiction genres in a style similar to that of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books.
The unfortunately named Shirley O’Shea—he was named after a heroic ancestor in the Middle Ages who freed his people from a tyrant—has lived a life filled with loss and disappointment. His mother was killed in a car accident when he and his little sister, Haley, were young. His alcoholic father died a few years later. With the help of his beloved aunt Winnie, he has done his best to raise his sister, but it hasn’t been easy. After spending a few years in jail for brutally assaulting one of her boyfriends, Shirley now works for a New Jersey demolition crew. But with Haley’s college tuition due and Aunt Winnie struggling with life-threatening illnesses, Shirley is in desperate need of money. When an old friend of his grandfather’s (who was apparently a freedom-fighting legend back in Ireland) approaches Shirley with a lucrative offer, he agrees—and becomes hopelessly entangled in a grand-scale conspiratorial plot that involves blackmail and a series of mass murders that, if successful, will be the prelude to an all-out war between Ireland and England. Featuring some insightful character development and pedal-to-the-metal pacing, this novel gets its real power from its gritty narrative voice, which is simultaneously jaded and principled. Shirley’s credo exemplifies the novel’s tone perfectly: “It's fucked up shit, this world…and you better do everything you can to keep [the people you love] safe. You steal what you need to steal, you hide what you need to hide, you kill who you have to kill.” The book has unnecessarily repetitive dream sequences and a less than satisfying ending, but it moves along so quickly—with something of the spirit of the Irish novelist Declan Hughes—that many readers may not mind.
A high-stakes suspense novel with a breakneck pace and strong voice.