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A two-sided tale of a manhunt during the Troubles
on 1 October 2013
This novel, first published in 1975, tells a two-sided tale of terrorism and counter-terrorism on the desperate and brutal streets of Belfast.
In London, a British cabinet minister is shot dead in front of his wife and children by an IRA assassin. The gunman escapes, returning to obscurity in Belfast, but the British security services can't afford to let the IRA thumb their noses at them like that. The Prime Minister steps in, ordering a new face, a man unknown in Belfast, to go undercover and find the assassin. Enter Harry Brown, a captain in the British Army with previous experience of infiltrating hostile territory.
Seymour weaves the story between the two men. We follow IRA man, Billy Downs, through the assassination and subsequent flight from the British mainland, and back in Belfast as he tries to resume his life. Then we meet Harry as he's plucked from duty in Germany for intensive preparation for an undercover mission sanctioned from the very top, but known about by very few.
Seymour is very good at setting the scene. He makes you feel the tension, the fear and the danger rife in Belfast during the Troubles. He shows both sides of the story, but never comes down on any one side. Throughout the book, Seymour shows how the smallest slip-ups lead to secrets on both sides coming out and the tragic consequences of that happening.
The story is tautly written and that helps carry the momentum through to the final confrontation. I didn't think the book needed some of the clean up at the end, where Seymour ties up loose ends for some of the minor characters, but on the whole he didn't waste time with unnecessary detail. This is well worth a read.