A family attempts to escape German spies in 1940s Ireland in this historical thriller.
The West of Ireland, 1941. Peter Coltrane, a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, has had trouble transitioning back to life at home and increasingly seeks relief at the bottom of a whiskey bottle. One day, Peter and his 14-year-old daughter, Brigid, are fishing near the shore of an island called Red Cow on Loch Gorm when they accidentally witness the brutal execution of two men by a group of mysterious assailants. The Coltranes are spotted and pursued, but Peter’s survival skills kick into gear. He escapes the men, sinks his boat, and goes into hiding with his daughter among the local bogs. Little does Peter know of the larger forces involved: he has witnessed German agents murdering British spies, as both powers vie for control of neutral Ireland in Hitler’s ever-expanding war. The German spymaster in Dublin sends in reinforcements to capture “that fisherman and his daughter,” and even orders them to kidnap Peter’s wife—though she proves just as slippery as her husband. Peter is an adept commando, but when Brigid falls into the clutches of an English mercenary working for the Nazis, he will have to push himself to the limits of his abilities to get her back. Beirne (Breakout from Sugar Island, 2015) writes in a taut but descriptive prose, adeptly summoning the wild countryside and Peter’s comfort in it: “These islands were inaccessible to all but a knowledgeable few…Coltrane felt at home among the hazel trees and heather that blanketed the bog like a coat of chain link armor.” If one gets past the rather unlikely premise—that some spies would go to such great lengths to kill a fisherman who would have no means of identifying them—the book functions as a compelling yarn. The bogs and lake isles make for an evocative setting, and the expected rural Irish personalities provide the requisite local color. Beirne manages to imbue each of his characters with just enough complexity to keep readers engaged, even as the plot rambles on toward a foreseeable end.
A violent, captivating, and boggy tale set during World War II.