Mysterious Book Report No. 445
by John Dwaine McKenna
Belfast, Northern Ireland, has for decades been one of the most contentious, strife-ridden and fought-over territories in the world . . . which makes it a great place to set an electrifying crime fiction and thriller novel.
Northern Heist, (Melville House, $26.99, 269 pages, ISBN 978-1-61219-903-0) by Richard O’Rawe, takes place in 2004, when a former IRA heavyweight and expert bank robber named James “Ructions” O’Hare comes up with a plan to steal truckloads of cash from the National Bank on High Street in Belfast. He figures that the haul will get them ₤35 to 36 million in cash, and turns to his crime boss uncle, Johnny “Panzer” O’Hare for financing. Panzer agrees, because part of the plan is to stiff the Provos, the Provisional Wing of the Irish Republican Army, who impose a fifty-percent tax on any criminal activity that takes place anywhere in the north of Ireland.
Ructions who’s been sleeping with the wife of the bank manager for a couple of years, has learned all of its operational and security secrets from her. When Panzer asks if he’s fallen in love with her, Ructions lies and tells his uncle ‘No.’ On the other hand however, when asked if his profligate son Finnbar has knowledge of the heist, Panzer also lies, and tells his nephew ‘No.’
The robbery attempt goes forward, aided by several ex-paramilitary gangsters acting as tiger kidnappers and with the first of several double-crosses in place, while the police, and the IRA, both pull out all the stops, trying to catch Ructions and his uncle Panzer in the act. But in the end, a pair of trials, one in the courts, the other by the IRA, determine the outcome of this pulsating, relentlessly exciting yarn that’s based on an actual unsolved robbery that nearly derailed the Good Friday Peace Accord of 1998 . . . the agreement which halted the ‘Troubles’ and stopped the sectarian violence that had plagued the area for nearly four decades.
The novel’s spot-on accuracy is informed by Mr. O’Rawe’s own experiences, first as an IRA operative, and then as an inmate in the infamous Long Kesh Prison. He’s the real deal, and his novel is as compelling as it is fascinating!
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