Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: Came for the murder, stayed for the Troubles.
Quick synopsis: A true crime story which starts as a case of kidnapping but then becomes a microcosm of the Troubles of Northern Ireland.
Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: When some serious IRA hardcases came to America, they thought WE were a bit over the top with our support of the IRA. Yes, but hard cases I mean guys who killed people for a living.
Fun Fact for History Nerds: Want to know what a hunger strike looks like? There are multiple in here and they do not sound fun at all. I do not recommend them for a weight loss regimen.
Oh, and Boston College had a whole secret archive of IRA members confessing to their crimes. Yeah, really!
My Take: The Troubles of Northern Ireland are probably not that well known anymore. However, growing up Catholic in a very Irish town (seriously, we have the 5thlargest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world), knowing your Irish history is a requirement.
This book does a little bit of a rope-a-dope. It is marketed as true crime and it very much is. However, it sells itself as the story of the disappearance of Jean McConville. That story is told but also a chronicle of the Troubles through the lives of multiple antagonists. Keefe does an outstanding job of playing it right down the middle as much as possible but holy hell is there a lot of blood on people’s hands.
The whole thing is sad, brutal, and unbelievable. I had to force myself to go to sleep because I just wanted to keep reading.
Verdict: This is the best book I have ever read on the Troubles or Irish history in general. It is as fair as it can be given the subject matter and is an absolute must read.
If You Liked This Try (disclaimer: these are just other true crime books, I don’t have much yet in the way of the Troubles books to recommend):
- Miriam C. Davis, The Axeman of New Orleans
- Skip Hollandsworth, The Midnight Assassin
- Gregg Olsen, Starvation Heights