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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars

on 25 October 2003
Gerald Seymour's novels have transported us to so many places festering with suppurating animosities: the Balkans, Afghanistan, Kurdish Iraq, Italy, the old U.S.S.R., Lebanon, South Africa. In THE JOURNEYMAN TAILOR, we're off to one of the most intractable of Gordian knots, Northern Ireland.
Jon Jo Donnelly, a legend in his own time, is an IRA assassin on undercover assignment in the heart of England with his sniper rifle and cache of explosives. Back in Donnelly's Ulster home town, Song Bird is a British Security Service (MI5) informant embedded in the IRA infrastructure. Gary "Bren" Brennard, a newbie to MI5, is rushed over in short order to Northern Ireland to help run Song Bird after his predecessor's cover is blown.
Jon Jo is killing at will in Britain's hinterland. The PM wants his head on a platter yesterday. MI5's plan is to lure Donnelly back to his farm and family, at which time he can be isolated by Song Bird for elimination by Her Majesty's forces.
The focus of this thriller isn't Jon Jo, Song Bird or Bren. Rather, it's young Cathy Parker, ruefully characterized as "a slip of a thing" by the Assistant Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, whose ears have been burned by Parker's no-compromise lecture on Song Bird's importance. Cathy is Bren's boss on the ground and the informer's recruiter and chief handler.
In Seymour's other novels that I've read, the primary protagonist's motives are revealed. In Parker's case, we learn little of her background other than she's the renegade daughter of affluent English parents. In the now, she's red-haired, 5 foot 4 inches tall, weighs 8 stone 3 pounds, obsessively driven by her job, idolized by her male peers, backed to the max by her superiors, and affectionately regarded by MI5's otherwise bitter rivals in the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Special Air Services. An alpha female that draws males like moths to light. Will Bren's wings get singed?
Since Seymour doesn't repeat a main character in other novels, it's unlikely we're to meet Cathy again. A pity, since, to me at least, she's proved to be one of the author's most engaging creations. Parker aside, however, this riveting book continue's the author's tradition of giving the reader a (presumably) realistic insight into the minds and hearts of the ordinary people who fight the gritty conflicts in the grotty corners of the civilized world where there are no winners and losers - only survivors. This is good stuff - the best of the genre on pulp fiction shelves.
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on 15 August 2013
I read this many years ago and always remembered how good it is. I recommended it to a friend but she couldn't find it anywhere. Then I saw a second-hand copy on Amazon and bought it. My husband is reading it at the moment and can't put it down. When he has finished it I shall read it again. I have read a lot of Gerald Seymour's books and this is top of my list.
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on 22 April 2015
Great read.
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on 22 February 2015
a good read from a great author
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on 10 June 2013
This was the second book of Gerald Seymour that I have read and again it was excellent! Well worth the money
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on 29 September 2015
Great read
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 October 2011

Although is is better than this, I encountered him first as beach reading; I never leave books to chance, i.e. finding some on the airport bookshop shelves and always take around five with me and had organised a series for a Greek holiday. I have been hooked ever since and usually have one lined up for every holiday reading. Lying on a far-away beach, it is alluring to find oneself transported to the Balkans, Afghanistan, Kurdish Iraq, Italy, the old U.S.S.R., Lebanon, South Africa and so on.

Although it is not Literature, he does not strive for that; what he writes are detailed, well-researched, page-turners and thought-provoking thrillers and, despite their fictional nature, they do ring true in many ways - the journalist in him coming out between the lines and, without doubt, he has been around as they say.

This novel swings between the high politics and intelligence services in London and Northern Ireland's secret terrorist underclass, painting a detailed picture of the I.R.A. and the Troubles.

Highly recommended.
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on 16 September 2000
Overall this is a readable book and it is really based on a very simple storyline about undercover work and the Provisional Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland/Ulster. Even so, it's a long book; but I never felt that it dragged in any sense.
I have to say, though, that there were a few things that appeared and stayed and grated on me.
Firstly, Bren, the main male character was physically fit but such a wimp that I could not believe that he would have ended up in the post in Northern Ireland that he did. Moerover, once there, I don't believe he should have stayed: he just wasn't suited to the job as far as I could tell.
Secondly, Parker, the main female character was even more physically fit but we kept being told how tired she was.
Thirdly, I really could not countenance Parker ending up alone in a bar deep inside "enemy territory". She was rumbled by someone in the bar and then half beaten to death. She walked away from the fight and yet she was allowed to carry on her duties There is a real life basis for this character, though, in Capt Robert Nirac, a British soldier with a similar profile, I suppose, but he was killed in similar (?) circumstances.
Fourthly, Bren fell in love with Parker very early in the story and was soppy and wet about it. He managed to achieve his ambition of sleeping with Parker; but only once she'd been badly beaten and was feeling sorry for herself. At no other time did she appear so vulnerable to his schoolboy advances.
So, a decent read. Strip away these problems if they worry you and it will be OK.
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on 19 July 1999
This book gives the closest view ever of the secret war in Ulster; the characters of the informer and his handler are unforgettable. This novel shows the ways in which killers terrorise a community, and highlights the courage of those who stand against them.
Just don't read this (or any Gerald Seymour) if you insist on a happy ending.
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on 11 August 2000
Without doubt this is the best book i have ever read. Gerald Seymour's style of writing means that the reader is constantly at the edge of his seat and is never able to put the book down. The book is excellent at informing the reader about the brutallity of the war in Northern Ireland from brutal IRA bombings in London to SAS ambushes in high streets. The reader never bores as MI5 intensifies its hunt for a top IRA terrorist bombing mainland Britain. To do so a highly trained Intelligence Officer and her inexperienced MI5 assistant must keep their informant-Codename "Songbird" -talking. With a dramatic climax on a Tyrone mountain top this book is superb and its realisim is astounding.
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