This is the second book in Adrian McKinty's trilogy featuring Belfast bad boy Michael Forsythe. In the first book, Michael almost single-handedly destroyed an Irish mob group, after which he had a price on his head and was forced to go into witness protection.
In this book, we find him living with his new identity and on vacation in the Canary Islands. Unfortunately, he manages to get in the middle of a riot between football hooligans, even though he wasn't really involved, and he is arrested by Spanish police.
Thrown into jail, he could be facing several years in a Spanish prison, or, even more worrying, he could be extradited back to Mexico to face charges there. He had escaped from a prison there in the first book.
Facing these unpalatable possibilities, Michael is visited in prison by a couple of representatives from British Intelligence, MI6. The MI6 leader, a woman named Samantha, offers him a way out. He can work undercover for them and infiltrate a rogue IRA sect in the U.S. called the Sons of Cuchulainn and help to destroy them.
This all takes place in the 1990s at a time when a tenuous cease fire is being negotiated in Northern Ireland and there is hope that peace may finally be about to break out there. The Sons of Cuchulainn want nothing to do with peace and are determined to throw a spanner into the works of the negotiations. Michael's job, should he choose to take it, will be to stop them.
Michael (now called Sean) reluctantly agrees and a day later is on a plane back to America and on to Boston where he must seek to ingratiate himself to the small group of sociopaths who are the heart of the Sons of Cuchulainn.
McKinty writes with a poetic lilt and some of the best parts of the book for me are the dialogues between various characters, which just seem spot-on. Michael/Sean's is a distinctive voice and, as he is the narrator of the story, we hear that voice throughout and we see things always through his eyes.
Some of the things that we see are truly appalling. The scenes of torture and murder were very hard to read but they are an essential part of the story, an essential tool for revealing the violent and sadistic activities of the enemy Michael/Sean must face and defeat if he is to live.
The suspense builds and builds. Since there is a third entry in this trilogy, the reader can be pretty sure that Michael Forsythe is going to make it out alive, but it is a near thing, and blood flows like a river on the way.
I wouldn't recommend this for the faint of heart, but it is an exciting and very well-written thriller.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars