cover image The Chinaman

The Chinaman

Stephen Leather. Pocket Books, $20 (310pp) ISBN 978-0-671-74301-7

A series of vicious bombings in London propels this timely, action-packed fourth novel from former journalist Leather ( Hungry Ghost ). The IRA claims responsibility for the violence, although Liam Hennessy, advisor to the Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing, cannot identify those involved. After a department-store blast kills a lovely Vietnamese girl and her mother, the girl's father, Nguyen, a guerilla fighter who witnessed the rape and slaughter of two other daughters while fleeing Vietnam years earlier, vows revenge. Dubbed the Chinaman by Ian Wood, a freelance journalist covering the bombings, Nguyen harasses an anguished Hennessy, who has been accused by intimates, including his adulterous wife, of ``going soft . . . on the Cause,'' to disclose names. Refused, the bereft and driven Nguyen, adept with explosives, mounts his own campaign--bomb for bomb--against the ever more ruthless unknown terrorists. Tracing Nguyen's tormented solo actions, the conflict among IRA factions and Wood's investigative efforts, Leather builds his story to its desperate, chilling resolution. The technical information about crafting bombs from spare parts and the scenes of the havoc they wreak are explicit and convincing. (May)