Thursday, December 07, 2006

McKinty's Gold

If I were a student at the Denver high school where Adrian McKinty teaches English and Civics, I’d try very hard to get into both of his classes. Not many people can combine obvious mastery of the two subjects – plus a pungently jaundiced dash of political history -- into one ironic paragraph as he does in his new paperback, The Dead Yard.

“The thing you had to remember when dealing with these people was that the Britain of the Empire was long gone,” says Irish roughneck Michael Forsythe as he’s about to be blackmailed into working for MI6. “The Brits may have conquered India and won two world wars but they also had a complacency and an incompetence that had gotten many people killed. Jeremy and Samantha [his MI6 handlers] were the descendants of the people who had been responsible for the disasters of the Somme and Gallipoli in World War One. The people who had tried to walk to the South Pole instead of taking dogs, who had built the unsinkable Titanic, who had lost America, surrendered at Singapore, starved Ireland, appeased Hitler...”

We first met Forsythe when the Belfast mercenary was infiltrating a bloody South Boston Irish mob for the FBI, in Dead I Well May Be. Now the resourceful, amoral, surprisingly charming young man of 26 who lost a foot and a few measures of skin and blood in a Mexican drug adventure, has slipped out of the Witness Protection Program to watch the Irish and British soccer teams (and their fans) do battle in Spain. Violence erupts in the streets; Forsythe winds up facing not only a long prison sentence as a warning against football hooliganism but also possible extradition to Mexico where his other foot might not be the only thing he loses. So when the sexy Samantha and her uppercrust underling Jeremy offer him a get-out-of-jail card and a free trip back to Boston, he agrees in spite of his anti-Brit instincts.

What Michael is supposed to do is charm his way into a small terrorist cell called the Sons of Cuchulainn, whose loose cannon status threatens an elaborate cease fire agreement with the IRA. Instead, Michael falls in love with the touching and troubled Kit, the 19-year-old daughter of the cell’s lunatic leader, and has to go up against his even more dangerous deputy, known as Touched McCuigan. There are enough bullets to stock an armory, but with McKinty it’s the words which leave the deepest impressions.