Having just read James Hynes’ Next, I was impressed and eager to read another book by the same author. I do that sometimes! So I went back to the first novel (I do that sometimes too). The Wild Colonial Boy is a competent political thriller, immersed in the intrigues of Irish factionalism. You don’t need to know a lot about the ‘troubles’, although it’s likely most readers will have a basic familiarity. And that’s all that’s necessary, as Hynes fleshes out the story with enough detail to keep the politics (and the love story) relevant, and our interest engaged.
Brian Donnelly, the son of an Irish Republican family in Detroit, is, by luck of the draw, semi-pressured into undertaking an errand for the family. The patriarch, who is something of a legend (his grandfather) and now a wealthy man, wants to make a last bequest to the cause. It falls to Brian, when his brother breaks his leg and is unable to undertake the task. His mission: to bring a sum of money to the IRA. There he meets ‘the love interest’, Claire, an American of Irish descent as well. Brian finds himself dealing with a couple of savvy radicals, Jimmy Coogan and his wife, Maire. Don’t mess with these true believers. Coogan plays the naive Brian to do his bidding, as he finds himself deeper and deeper into the dangerous game. Smuggling money becomes the least of Brian’s worries.
Brian stands on shifting and unsure ground, while the other players (Sinn Fein and the IRA faction) know exactly where they stand. Or do they? This is what raises the level of Hynes’ first novel somewhat. There are deals to be made, power to be protected, intrigues to be avoided, and puzzles to be solved. Hynes never leaves us floundering.
Hynes’ latest is much the better book, though this is a quick read and has its moments. I wished for more. I’d recommend Next to any reader who loves good literature. I’d recommend his first only to those who immerse themselves in Irish fiction, or a good story with a love interest.