The author of the well-reviewed Divorcing Jack returns with another side-splittingly funny, irreverent tale of violence in Northern Ireland. Miller, its antihero, is a smart-ass, hard-drinking bicycle-riding young journalist who gets banished from a busy Belfast daily (for being ""over the top way out pissed as fuck stocious"" drunk in the office) to a boring weekly in Crossmaheart, a rural terrorist hot spot. He's not immediately welcomed at the Chronicle, where his new colleagues bitterly inform him that it's ""normal practice to wait until a body shows up before giving a man's job away."" Jamie Milburn, Miller's predecessor at the Chronicle, has disappeared. Pursuing the mystery, Miller rides his bike, which he calls the ""Cycle of Violence,"" falls in love with Jamie's gal, Marie, and investigates--and possibly precipitates--a real cycle of violence that hurtles to a fascinating, devastating finale. Bateman's forte is that, without directly addressing Northern Ireland's military/ paramilitary confrontation, the book is drenched and reeking with the pervasive violence and fear of a war-torn state. As the tale unfolds, lives splinter and explode as savagely as the bombs that rock Main Street. This horror is cleverly framed with the blinding sparkle of dark Northern Irish wit--humor so black that it will have readers chuckling even while it reveals the dreadful realities that laughter pretends to camouflage. We probably learn more about life in Northern Ireland from this brilliant, often hilarious novel than from a year of Sunday magazine specials. (May).