HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 1 December 2012
Originally from Belfast, forty-year-old Killian has tried to remake his life, having emigrated to New York City after spending his first twenty-three years in The Life in Belfast. A tinker, or Pavee, sometimes even referred to as a gypsy, Killian was involved in crimes of many varieties, including drugs, extortion, and even murder there, but he managed to get out of that life, learn to read, go to college, study history and the arts, and live a more "normal" life. He still adheres to his aboriginal values, however.
Author Adrian McKinty, who grew up in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland before emigrating to New York City and eventually Australia, endows both New York and Ireland with life as he creates a sometimes likeable, though often violent main character, a man unable to abide by the rules set by governments for society, a man who, instead, lives by his own inner code and a more vengeful sense of honor and justice. Unfortunately for Killian, he himself has been involved in a real estate investment in Belfast which has gone bad with the economic downturn, and he is now seriously in debt. When he is contacted in New York by an old "mate" from Belfast, now relocated to Boston, to collect a debt from someone in New Hampshire, he sees this as a chance to get out of his own debt. Afterward, he is off to Kowloon to meet with Richard Coulter, an extremely wealthy and influential Irishman who wants to hire him to find his ex-wife Rachel and daughters, ages five and seven, missing or hiding somewhere in Northern Ireland.
Coulter's need to find Rachel is greatly in excess of what one would normally expect in an ordinary custody dispute, though the author draws out the suspense for almost half the book, hinting early about a laptop but not revealing why it is so important. The plot, however, remains squarely on the level of Killian's job, the search for Rachel and the girls. As Killian searches, he is often tailed by a man from Volvograd named Markov, also called Starshyna, a violent man responsible for eight or nine gruesome murders of Mexicans, along the US/Mexico border. These nauseating murders are described, I suppose, to give a sense of just how debased and pathologically vicious Markov is, but they were so unsettling and so gratuitous that I came very close to giving up on this book. Markov has been hired for the "real job," after Killian finds Rachel and the girls, and he is willing to do anything to ensure that he himself can finish the job, finding the mysterious laptop which Killian knows nothing about.
The battle of wits between Killian and Markov keeps the action moving quickly. As points of view change between Killian, Rachel, and Markov, the author provides information about post cease-fire Ireland - "drugs, new houses, and McDonald's" - and further describes the social conditions. Ultimately, McKinty writes a dramatic and often shockingly dark thriller which casts new light on Northern Ireland in the aftermath of the years-long war against their counterparts to the south. The author's inclusion of an Epilogue brings all the loose ends together and provides insights into the universal themes which the author includes in the narrative, a narrative of the real world as seen in the Pavees' Dreaming.