From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Doyle digs into the modern history of Ireland in the concluding volume to the life story of Henry Smart, a teenage Sinn Fein triggerman first encountered in A Star Called Henry
. Here, an aging Henry must preserve his own legend, which is taken away from him first for a film, and then by the IRA. In the mid-1940s, film director John Ford plans to make a movie based on Henry's life, but Henry eventually realizes the film that Ford has planned will reduce his story to sentimental pap. Upon returning to Ireland with Ford, Henry plans on killing the director, but his callousness has faded, and he drifts into the Dublin suburbs, where he meets a respectable widow who may be his long-disappeared wife. Henry ages in obscurity until the '70s, when the IRA uses a distorted version of Henry's story as a PR ploy; as the IRA man who runs Henry explains, we hold the copyright to the Irish story. Doyle is a stellar storyteller, though not a faultless one—characters tend to editorialize at the drop of a hat; yet Doyle exhibits a peerless ear for cynicism as he grapples with the violence and farce of Irish history. (May)
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When it comes to books in a series, readers often differ as to which one is their favorite, and The Dead Republic
is no exception. Several critics found the byzantine Irish politics and the slower pace (Henry is no longer a spry young assassin, after all) a bit of a letdown. But others greatly enjoyed Doyle's final entry, which, although less action-packed than the first two entries, offers a thought-provoking account of the mythology surrounding modern Irish history. To sum it up: Doyle's latest is best suited for those interested in Ireland's recent past, as well as for those who just want to know what happened to their favorite reformed Irish hit man.