cover image The Wild Colonial Boy

The Wild Colonial Boy

James Hynes, Ma. Holiday House, $18.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-689-12089-3

Northern Ireland, a place almost synonymous with the brand of terrorism practiced by the Provos, the outlaw branch of the Irish Republican Army, is the setting for this accomplished first novel. Paced like a thriller and conveyed through grittily realistic dialogue and detail, the narrative juxtaposes youth and innocence against an escalating tide of violence. A connection between Detroit-based sympathizers and a violent faction with the IRA is made when Brian Donovan, a feckless young American, becomes a courier, delivering funds to Ireland for the ``cause.'' Once there, he is led to the leader of the faction, Jimmy Coogan, married to his cousin Maire. Without realizing the gravity of his mission, Brian agrees to transfer an immensely more dangerous cargo, plastique explosives, to London, where they will be used with terrible effect. In the course of one shattering week, events lead to the death of Coogan, and to Brian's involvement with Claire Delaney, another fresh-faced American whose Irish heritage has imbued her with values opposite to his. Many threads of the Irish-American linkage are woven into this intelligent, compelling, often eloquent depiction of an enduring conflict. (Apr.)