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SEVENTY TIME SEVEN
by John Gordon Sinclair
Faber & Faber, September 2012
374 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 0571290620


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Danny Maguire was never a member of the IRA, but he has sworn to avenge the death of his brother Sean in what appeared to be an SAS ambush. He has become a freelance killer determined to find the informant who set up the attack. The IRA's obsession with 'touts' and their brutal punishment when discovered demonstrates the success of British policy in obtaining information, but when it becomes too costly to carry on paying informants, a cynical security service arranges for a list of names to fall into the hands of the Republicans including the identity of the Thevshi the Ghost the top agent within the Army Council ranks, now resettled in America. A hired attempt to murder him, using local hitmen, has failed bloodily and the IRA offer the job to Danny. But he has a problem the Ghost claims to know who was responsible for Sean's death.

The switching of location and characters to reveal bits of the plot and build tension is well handled and the main issues well-disguised. The massive amounts of violence are, on the whole, realistic and in some part relieved by both two warm parallel relationships, its human perspective on 'The Troubles' and a thread of humour running through the book. But it falls down on pacing and dialogue, which is often far too heavy, and would have benefitted from more editing. With more attention and fewer words the dialogue could have been a real strength.

There's enough here to suggest Sinclair has what it takes to make a new career as a thriller writer. His characterisation is assured, with the real villains bordering on the unspeakably evil while others blur the boundaries in search of retribution, and the love interests are nicely handled. He has obviously tried to research the book carefully, although sometimes there is almost too much detail, but as well as a sharper editor, he needs a new researcher. A five-year-old girl does not blow someone's head off with a single shot from a semi-automatic AR15 the IRA's ubiquitous Armalite then put the gun down. Even if her trigger finger was light enough to fire a single shot, the recoil would knock her over. But aside from its problems the book shows real potential, although it does leave the impression it was written for the screen. The title refers to Christ's instruction to St Peter in Matthews's gospel that he should forgive his brother not just seven times, but seventy times seven, but there's precious little forgiveness in this near classic tale of revenge.

John Cleal is a former soldier and journalist with an interest in medieval history. He divides his time between France and England.

Reviewed by John Cleal, November 2015

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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