A DEATH IN IRELAND by Peter Everett


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Double-crosses and disillusionment in post-WW I Ireland--as Everett (Negatives, The Fetch) applies his usual sense of anxiety and moody claustrophobia to a small tale of IRA assassins. . . with uneven results. Part of the problem is Everett's narrator: young American Mort lmpert, an ex-G.I. who has left his nagging wife to become sidekick-driver to old chum (and professional hitman) Virgil Colp, tells this story in a voice which is too literary to be convincing and too self-pitying to be sympathetic. Mort and Virgil are in Dublin, employees of the IRA, impatiently waiting around to meet bigwig Michael Collins and get their assignment; while Virgil trades insults with IRA lackey O'Shea or samples the local prostitutes, Mort broods about wife Agnes. Then, at last, after being taken to an odd Irish funeral/wake, they're in action: tough, fearless Virgil proves his mettle by snappily shooting a British undercover agent, so, disguised as US newsmen, they're off to Cork (along with singer Mrs. Roche, a seductive IRA sympathizer) to do the real job--the assassination of the British Commander-in-Chief in Ireland. But Mort is becoming increasingly disgusted with the bloodshed and with Virgil's cynicism, a disgust which is mirrored in Mort's Cork accommodations (a foul second-rate brothel where s/m games go on). And soon things get even worse: rioting in the town, death at the brothel; Mort's sickening discovery that Virgil is planning to double-cross the IRA (he'll pretend to kill the British general, then actually kill IRA leader Collins); and finally the IRA's own double-cross-as Virgil is fatally shot and Mort escapes with wounded, fanatical Mrs. Roche. . . only to end up a sitting duck for IRA execution (""romantic Ireland had done for them all. Just as it was fixing now to kill me for sure""). This is a serviceable minithriller scenario, and Everett does well with mood, atmosphere, and action. The talk, however, is implausibly pretentious, with much rhetorical to-and-fro about idealism, reality-, and the meaning of life. And Mort's progression from quasiinnocence to bitter disillusionment is loudly announced but never made believable. Passable, small-scale fare for patient suspense readers, then--but those interested in Everett's familiar big themes here will find them dramatized far better elsewhere.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1981
Publisher: Little, Brown