Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize: An unhappy marriage is further shaken when IRA terrorists invade the couple’s home in this “first rate” thriller (The New York Times).
Michael Dillon, a self-described “poet in a business suit,” is a once-aspiring writer in Belfast whose dreams have been consumed by a stultifying career as a hotel manager and a hateful marriage to his unstable wife, Moira. But on the day he decides to leave Moira for his younger lover and take off for London, IRA terrorists break into the Dillon home. Their plan is simple: They’ll hold Moira hostage while Michael plants a bomb designed to kill a rabble-rousing Protestant and his flock convening for a political rally. If Michael goes to the police, Moira dies. It’s only the first choice of many—because in Brian Moore’s “breathtakingly constructed” nightmare, the day has just begun (Los Angeles Times).
“The plot [is] one that only a spoiler would reveal—and risk ruining the surprises that detonate throughout the novel like cleverly hidden and elegantly designed incendiary devices. The notion of ‘unbearable suspense’ is, of course, a cliché, but I found that I kept briefly putting down the novel to postpone the moment when I had to face what might happen next.” —Francine Prose, The New York Times
Set in his native Belfast, this is Moore's ( The Color of Blood ) most powerful, meaningful and timely novel, one that will generate strong emotions and diverse opinions. Michael Dillon's literary aspirations vanished when he became the manager of a small hotel; he thinks of himself as ``a failed poet in a business suit.'' Married to a shrewish, dependent woman, he has just decided to leave her and move to London with his lover, a young Canadian woman, when he is swept into Northern Ireland's daily violence. A group of IRA thugs invades his home and holds his wife hostage while Michael is directed to plant a bomb that will kill a Protestant minister. Seamlessly turning what begins as a drama of domestic unhappiness into a chilling thriller, Moore engages Michael in a moral dilemma: whether to risk his wife's safety but save countless other lives by informing the police of the bomb ticking in his car. Once made, Michael's decision leads to yet more excruciating choices, escalating the tension in a narrative that mirrors the conflict which neither camp can win. As he depicts the passions on both sides of the civil war, Moore excoriates both ``Protestant prejudice and Catholic cant,'' deploring the ceaseless conflict in ``this British Province founded on inequality and sectarian hate.'' If the novel seems, in retrospect, perhaps a little contrived, readers will remain riveted as it hurtles to an inevitable, cleverly plotted conclusion.