Say Nothing – Patrick Radden Keefe
My brother-in-books Sir David and I often share recommendations with each other. I don’t know that he’s ever pushed a book as hard as he did this one. I think he got a little nervous he had oversold it, but this turned out to be a great recommendation.
Keefe provides a thorough but quick history of the Provisional Irish Republican Army and its key members during the Troubles, the period in Northern Ireland from the mid–1960s through the 1990s when the country was torn by violence between primarily Catholic Republicans looking to unify with the Republic of Ireland and mostly Protestant Loyalists who wanted to remain a part of the United Kingdom.
While this is generally a broad history of the IRA and its efforts to drive the British from Northern Ireland, Keefe anchors the book on several individuals. They include Gerry Adams, the political leader of the IRA and it’s associated party, Sinn Féin; his most trusted deputies who were responsible for placing bombs in London; and Bobby Sands and the hunger strikers of the early 80s. The book ties them all together through the story of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10 who is accused of being an informant for British forces and disappears, never to be seen alive again, in the early 1970s.
I’ve always been fascinated by The Troubles, but never found a good book that laid out a history of its events. This book was exactly that. My only criticism is how it is so focused on the IRA side of the argument. Late in the book Keefe details how a former member of the IRA recorded interviews with people at all levels of the movement in the 2000s, getting their reflections on what happened. These recordings, meant to remain secret until everyone involved had died, eventually became public and were at the center of several legal battles in Northern Ireland. But there was also a trove of interviews with Loyalists but we never learn much about that side of the conflict. Surely the Loyalists had just as compelling and interesting stories to tell. But, I guess, to most Americans the IRA, for better or worse, was the far more compelling side of the conflict.
That quibble aside, I thought this was an excellent book. Tremendously researched, very well written, and compelling from beginning to end. This book also inspired me to watch a movie, but more on that next week.
The Downhill Lie – Carl Hiaasen
I was in a brief lull waiting for e-books on hold to come in so ripped through this for the second time. I first read it about 18 months ago, as I was just getting back into golf. Now that I’m deeper into my obsession, I thought re-reading of Hiaasen’s similar path in his mid–50s made sense. Still very funny. Still highly relatable. And with a year’s worth of practice and play under my belt, it gave me hope. Maybe not hope that I’ll ever be a single-digit handicap, but at least hope that I’m already better than Hiaasen.
The First Rule – Robert Crais
The second Elvis Cole/Joe Pike book of Crais’ that I’ve read this spring. The first was more focused on Cole while Pike was the center of this one. I loved the freedom that gave Crais. Sure, he’s writing in the same series, but can do so from a completely different perspective. These are so entertaining and quick to get through that I’ll likely read more in the series, and I’m eager to see how Crais balances the ability to focus on a different lead character from book-to-book.