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Reviewed by Darryl Greer for Readers' Favorite
During World War II the population of that part of Ireland that was to become a republic in 1949 was less than three million. So you wouldn’t expect there to be a lot happening that would interest the rest of the world. Not so; the Nazis were active, British spooks were keeping a watchful eye on things, the so called Blueshirts — Nazi sympathisers — were on the far right of the social spectrum, and the I.R.A. was still flexing its muscles. Then there was the highly influential Catholic Church and the shameful antics of some of its members. Against this historical background Seamus Beirne has cast his latest novel, In Search of Brigid Coltrane. The year is 1941. Peter Coltrane is a mild mannered school teacher who likes to fish. He is also a veteran of the Spanish Civil War and currently involved with the I.R.A. There is an introduction which describes his fourteen-year-old daughter, Brigid, in a dungeon somewhere. The reader’s interest thus piqued, the ensuing chapters take us back to how she managed to get herself into this predicament.
Brigid and her father are fishing near an island known as Red Cow when Peter spots two mysterious hooded figures. As the story unfolds, he witnesses a crime which could have international repercussions. The only problem is, the perpetrators know who he is and they need to dispose of a couple of Coltranes before their dirty deed is discovered. Peter has to disappear fast, but Brigid is captured and held as bait. Despite his I.R.A. connections and friends in the Garda Síochána, Peter is up against the might of the German Army, British thugs and some locals, even some he knows, who’ll do literally anything for money. The desperate search for his daughter is on, with Peter doggedly determined to overcome every obstacle preventing him from rescuing his daughter.
Seamus Beirne’s In Search of Brigid Coltrane offers an interesting insight into Irish history as well as being an intriguing, fast paced thriller. The story is multi-faceted which adds to the intrigue. While the main thrust is Peter’s search for his daughter, the focus is also on goings-on at the German Embassy in Dublin, the inner workings of a monastery and a convent, and the factual Operation Green, which involved the Germans invading Ireland as a stepping stone for Operation Sea Lion, a proposed full scale invasion of the United Kingdom. There are some insightful scenes dealing with the shameful connection between the Catholic Church in Ireland and the Blueshirts, as well as the infamous — and real — Magdalen Laundries. In Search of Brigid Coltrane is a thrilling adventure story, a work of fast paced fiction skillfully woven into real events. It’s really worth a read.