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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

****½ Confessional by Jack Higgins. Action/adventure.

It's been quite a while since I've read a Jack Higgins book, though his were the first action/adventure, spy novels I ever read. Now I remember why I enjoyed them so much.

I was slightly disoriented at the beginning of the book, when the setting changed from an Irish village to the Soviet Union. Turns out that was intentional, and the Irish village was a training camp for spies.

One man from the training camp, a very talented actor, code name Cuchulain, has been living in Ireland for 20 years. His task: to foster unrest. To this end, he's been part of the IRA, but he also works for the other side--whichever will make the situation in Ireland worse.

British Intelligence learns of this from a defector, and has to work in conjunction with the IRA and the only two people who can identify him: the defector and the foster daughter of a high-ranking Soviet official, a concert pianist who was just a child when Cuchulain killed her father.

The story has several twists, as our heroes try one avenue after another to find and stop the elusive and deadly Cuchulain. By the end of the story, the Soviets are after him as well.

Reading other reviews, I'm informed that this is part of Higgins's Liam Devlin series, something I'm sorry to say I wasn't aware of. I never read his books in anything like a logical order, or even deliberately, instead just picking up random books here and there when I found them. If I didn't have so much to read, I might consider trying to re-read them all in order.

Regardless, Confessional is what a spy novel should be: exciting, edge-of-your-seat suspense and action, plenty of twists and turns, and characters and consequences you can care about. I did guess Cuchulain's cover identity fairly early on, but that was made up for by the intriguing and chilling premise of one man in the right place at the right time being able to cause so much havoc. I also need to add a bit of praise for Higgins's writing style. It's clean and transparent--that is, I can dive into the story without even noticing the words.

I think I need to start keeping an eye out for Jack Higgins books again.


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