Kenny details an Irish Republican Army plot set against the backdrop of the Travers Stakes in this crime thriller.
On a cold night in Derry, a British sniper lies in wait to end the life of Michael O’Shaugnessy, an IRA operative responsible for a recent deadly bombing attack in London. When the bullet meant for Michael kills his young son instead, the tragedy rocks his extended family. The boy’s aunt and uncle adopt distinctly different methods of dealing with their grief. Annie McGuire decides to join the IRA in the violent fight to end British rule in Northern Ireland. Her brother, Aidan, is a gentler man—a well-regarded trainer of thoroughbreds who believes that more violence won’t set the country right. As Annie sinks into the covert world of bombs and threats, Aidan trains Irish Eagle, a promising racehorse who takes the European circuit by storm. When the horse has the opportunity to run at the Travers Stakes in Saratoga Springs, Aidan finally sees an opportunity to settle old scores. “There is, quite simply, no way the colt can lose the Travers Stakes,” he explains to Annie. “That is, unless I decide the horse has an off day.” In a complex scheme involving a network of gangsters, jockeys, terrorists, and arms dealers, Aidan may do more than lose a race: he might just end a war. The plot moves forward at near breakneck speed—almost too fast, sometimes, at the expense of emotional investment—but Kenny is able to do a lot with a quick scene and a few lines of stylish dialogue. The highly fraught context of the Troubles does much to bolster what is ultimately a rather ridiculous premise, and memorable characters coupled with an ever complicating plot aid in the suspension of the reader’s disbelief. Is it a fantasy? Certainly. Yet there’s something that rings true (and inherently Irish) about placing so much emphasis on a horse race rather than on the literal Troubles at hand.
An efficient, if unlikely, thriller that keeps the reader engaged until the finish line.