Jack Higgins is in my opinion unquestionably one of the greatest fictional writers of our time (if you avoid "Dark Justice" that is). I own all his novels and this and "A Prayer for the Dying" are his two greatest writing achievements todate.
This is the first novel in which Mr Higgins gives us an IRA triangle that has become his stock in trade. Martin Brosnan, Liam Devlin and Frank Barry are all ex old school IRA. Where Devlin and Brosnan were the romantic side, the small country against the attrocities of the imperial invader, performing surgical hits against military targets, Barry was the kill all bomb all indescriminate side of the conflict, and they have unfinished history so to speak. Brosnan also has a vietnam background, which entwines a photographer he met there Anne-Marie Audin.
Barry, who is portrayed as never seeming to have had any loyalties except to violence and money, is now an Assassin - terrorist for hire with seemingly little loyalty to any cause or country. When he nearly kills a British Foreign Secretary on a visit to France, and slays an important agent instead, the Prime Minister orders her Secret Service to retaliate. Enter Brigaider Charles Ferguson in his debut, with the initail and defining policy that you should set a thief to catch a thief, set a killer to catch a killer and set a terrorist to catch a terrorist. To this end he enlists Liam Devlin in order to enlist his true target Martin Brosnan. Brosnan is Languishing, supposably until he dies, in a French prison on Devils island (a french version of alcatraz). The pitch is he'll get Brosnan out of there if he'll kill Barry. Liam agrees to help the british, his enemy being as he is old style IRA (see "the eagle has landed") for 2 reasons, one to get his friend Brosnan out, and two because, he, Brosnan and Audin have unfinished business with Barry. Brosnan doubts Ferguson can get him out, so he escapes with an old school crime lord in very daring fashion. After that the hunt is on.
The action comes thick and fast, and is truely awsome and deadly. The book tends to focus on Barry but this isn't a bad thing. Mr Higgins fleshes out his characters (something critics say he lacks in his more recent novels) and gives the reader something he can both get his teeth into and root for.