Blind Arrows by Anthony Quinn

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Blind Arrows by Anthony Quinn

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A historical spy thriller bringing us 1919 Ireland and the conflict between Michael Collins and the British government. Historically fascinating and intriguing, this is one that ticks all the boxes for a really good read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: September 2015
Publisher: No Exit Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1843445357

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1919: A cohort of British spies meet in the depths of Dublin Castle, the prison and British intelligence hub. Their main focus is the infiltration of the IRA in a bid to neutralise their leader, Michael Collins. However, there is a distraction from their usual agenda: an increasing number of IRA women are escaping, only to be found murdered shortly afterwards. Martin Kant, an English journalist in Ireland is charged with investigation and reporting back to the government powers as well as his newspaper editor. Meanwhile, Lilly Merrin, a Dublin Castle employee has also gone missing. Her loyalty to the Crown seems beyond question in the eyes of her boss, but others would argue with that...

Irish author and journalist Anthony J Quinn is developing a deservedly glowing reputation. His debut novel (published 2012 in Ireland and 2014 in the UK) bringing police detective Celcius Day to the world garnered a flurry of awards and nominations. He then went to WW1 Ireland for inspiration in The Blood Dimmed Tide (2014), based on an event in the life of WB Yeats. Now he jumps forward a year, into 1919 and brings us a novel demonstrating the tactics of the de facto occupying British army countered by the equally determined tactics of the Irish.

Our narrator is journalist Kant, a man in search of a story which he slowly becomes part of. Sick of war after the front lines of France, he finds himself in another, albeit closer to home. His co-operation with the British authorities means he has first-hand experience of the beating heart of British operations. However, it also means he has certain obligations which get in the way when curiosity about the other side of the battle (and affairs of the heart) intervene.

The serial murder plot runs nicely parallel, playing with our perceptions from time to time as it crisscrosses the espionage thread and Martin's attempts to interview Collins. Now he's a fascinating bloke!

This is the era when 'The Big Man' Collins is at his peak but the signs of the animosity on both sides of the divide are seeping in and will, beyond this novel, eventually kill him. He may be charismatic and still displaying the traits of leadership but he does this while looking over his shoulder and taking increasingly drastic measures to stay at the top.

Talking about measures, it's fascinating how he becomes a manipulator of disseminated information. It would have been interesting to see what he made of the internet!

Anthony writes in a non-judgemental way, demonstrating that both sides have their heroes and, indeed, their villains. One particular villain is revealed to us before the authorities so we can watch their work in graphic stomach-churning detail. Don't let this put you off unless you're of a delicate disposition. It's bloody but not gratuitous, Anthony remaining within the bounds of credibility that complement and balance the wonderful historical factoids.

I finished the novel with a faster heartbeat and an urge to earn more of an era we weren't taught about in the British school system of the 70s. A writer who can entertain while fostering a thirst for knowledge… You can see where the appreciative plaudits are coming from, can't you?

(Thank you to the folks at No Exit Press for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If this appeals and you would like to read more fiction based on the dark doings at Dublin Castle, we also heartily recommend The Convictions of John Delahunt by Andrew Hughes. You might also enjoy Ashes In The Wind by Christopher Bland.

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