Over the last 30 years a veritable cottage industry has developed producing books, articles and papers about the troubles. Unfortunately much of the produce is a waste of book-self space. 'Bandit Country' is one of the exceptions, containing a great deal of detail, much of which as far as I know has not been published before, at least in book form. It is also unusually accessible for the casual reader, as well as being extremely valuable to anyone with a particular interest in Northern Ireland.
Having said that the book is excellent, I do have three small criticisms, the main one being that for me the book does not answer the one of Mr Harnden's own questions that I was most interested in - "What has driven these men to the point where the end will justify any means?". But then I am from Northern Ireland, and so have my own biases, one of them being that is that there is and was no justification for violence. Perhaps others will find the answer to that question more easily.
Having followed and admired Mr Harnden's newspaper articles over the years, the style of writing was a little unexpected. It is almost breathless in pace, and at times the book reads like a thriller - albeit a very well written one. At first I found this a shade off-putting, and suspect that it may have the same effect on many people who have read a lot of 'troubles literature', most of which is written in a more academic style. That would be a pity, since there is a great deal of factual content here. For the general reader, the fast pace and racy style should make the large amount of information highly digestible.
My only other slight criticism is that I would have liked more analysis, mainly because I have found the author's journalistic commentary useful and often convincing in the past. On the other hand, 'Bandit Country is well balanced, and too much commentary would probably have spoiled that balance.