The Good Friday agreement that promised to bring peace to the embattled Protestants and Catholics of Northern Ireland is jeopardized by a new paramiltary group bent on destroying the truce. Michael Osbourne, the hero of Silva's previous thriller, The Mark of the Assassin, is rerecruited by the CIA when Douglas Cannon--his father-in-law, a former senator, and the new ambassador to the Court of St. James--is targeted for death by the Ulster Freedom Brigade. Osbourne has long since given up on the spying game and is reluctant to be drawn back into it again. Then he discovers that the Brigade has shopped the contract on Senator Cannon to October, the assassin who narrowly missed killing Osbourne a few years ago but succeeded in murdering the woman he once loved. It's a good setup for a political thriller, with nonstop action that moves from Belfast to Armagh, New York to Washington, London to Mykonos. What really notches up the suspense is the double-dealing in the corridors of power, particularly the CIA and a secret organization called the Society--a nasty assemblage of politicos, spymasters, arms merchants, and killers bent on destabilizing nascent peacemaking efforts all over the globe. Down but not out at the conclusion of Silva's latest, the Society and Osbourne will likely be back for a return engagement the next time warring factions attempt to beat their swords. In fact, as the director of the Society says in the last chapter, "The Kosovo Liberation Front would like our help: Gentlemen, we're back in business." --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
The title of Silva's new thriller (after Mark of the Assassin and The Unlikely Spy) refers to the time of the year in Northern Ireland when the Protestants assert their right to march in celebration of a 300-year-old victory over the Catholics?and the Catholics (naturally) object. The Irish background to this elaborately plotted but not very convincing yarn is by far the best part about it. Silva has clearly done his homework on Belfast and the tone of the contemporary Troubles, and the opening passages have an authentic ring. All too soon, however, the story becomes bogged down in one of those worldwide conspiracies to keep the world safe for arms merchants by blocking any efforts toward peace, of a kind only John le Carre, with his much more acute eye and ear for offbeat villains, can hope to bring off. There is a supposedly charismatic yet glum world-class assassin who bumps off the surgeon who has changed his face; an embittered ex-CIA man, Michael Osbourne, whose job is to save the free world; Osbourne's wife, who wishes he would leave the Agency alone, and various cynical and suave operatives on both sides. The whole tale is told in simple, declarative sentences that convey information (though not much else) with economy and authority, but ultimately become tedious. There are anomalies, too: a climactic shootout in Washington might work as a movie scene but sags on the page; and while such real-life figures as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and (in a truly ludicrous scene) even Queen Elizabeth are given walk-ons, the American public figures are all mythical. Despite Silva's skill at moving a story along, this is basically a mechanical and lackluster performance.
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