Review - DISAPPEARED, Anthony Quinn

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

When the blurb says "In Northern Ireland's darkest corner" it means it. It's winter, it's wet, dark, cold and black. A landscape full of old houses, swamps and fast running streams, there's an overwhelming sense of dark, deep, close-held, life-long, simmering secrets in the world that Inspector Celcius Daly now lives.

A Catholic Irishman, he's returned to his father's house after a stint in Scotland. His father's recent death, his own marriage breakdown - it's exactly what you'd expect of somebody living in this place, although Daly's a bit of a dark horse himself. He's also stubborn and a decent man who does not easily let go of a case when he believes something is wrong.

There is something very apt about the setting for DISAPPEARED. For a non-Irish reader it feels so right that this dark and slightly obsessive cop would be exiled to this place, full of people with the same personality traits. There's also something very apt about the intertwining of generations of families with the IRA, Special Branch, and a whole heap of secrets.

Everything about the setting, the scenario and the characters felt spot on when reading DISAPPEARED. Even the character of David Hughes, in the early stages of dementia, still with enough awareness of his own situation to know what's happening, know what he knows and more importantly, be able to identify the things he should know but can no longer recall. The dogged way that Daly pursues his investigation, despite the blatant interference of Special Branch matches the dogged manner in which Hughes sets out to right some wrongs, and the way that Oliver Jordan's young son pursues his own aims. The other element of this book that feels exactly right is the way that the Troubles inflicted damage on these generations of families, on the communities they live in, and even on the place itself.

Everything about DISAPPEARED worked. It's dark and uncomfortable reading at times, and for something that travels through as much human misery and cruelty as it does, it moves with a gentleness, a respect for the experiences of all the characters.

By way of confession - this book has been sitting on my to be read list for way too long. On the upside, DISAPPEARED has now been followed by BORDER ANGELS which was released this year and is now on the same list - marked with a much heavier handed reminder.

Year of Publication

Explores the terrifying and lasting effects on a middle class Argentinian family of a single night during the summer of 1976, when some of them "disappeared" under the brutal regime of the military junta. Spanning two decades, this is a cocktail of love, betrayal, politics and revenge.

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