A harrowing story of politically motivated crime that could not have been better told.

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Half a century after the fact, a cold case in Northern Ireland provides a frame for a deeply observed history of the Troubles.

In 1972, though only 38, Jean McConville was the mother of 10, trying to raise them on a widow’s pension in a cloud of depression—a walking tale of bad luck turned all the worse when she comforted a wounded British soldier, bringing the dreaded graffito “Brit lover” to her door. Not long after, masked guerrillas took her from her home in the Catholic ghetto of Belfast; three decades later, bones found on a remote beach were identified as hers. These events are rooted in centuries of discord, but, as New Yorker staff writer Keefe (The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream, 2009, etc.) recounts, the kidnapping and killing took place in the darkest days of the near civil war between Catholics and Protestants. Another Belfast graffito of the time read, “If you’re not confused you don’t know what’s going on,” and the author does an excellent job of keeping an exceedingly complicated storyline on track. At its heart is Gerry Adams, who eventually brokered the truce between warring factions while insisting that he was never a member of the IRA, whose fighters killed McConville. “Of course he was in the IRA,” said an erstwhile comrade. “The British know it. The people on the street know it. The dogs know it on the street." Yet, as this unhappy story shows, one of the great sorrows of Northern Ireland is that naming murderers, even long after their crimes and even after their deaths, is sure to bring terrible things on a person even today. Keefe’s reconstruction of events and the players involved is careful and assured. Adams himself doubtless won’t be pleased with it, although his cause will probably prevail. As the author writes, “Adams will probably not live to see a united Ireland, but it seems that such a day will inevitably come”—perhaps as an indirect, ironic result of Brexit.

A harrowing story of politically motivated crime that could not have been better told.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-52131-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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