Echoland by Joe Joyce (Liberties Press, €13.99) is a thoughtful blend of spy novel and historical thriller. In the midst of the flap, young soldier Paul Duggan finds himself promoted to G2, the army’s intelligence division, to investigate the possibility that an apparently respectable German citizen is in fact a spy plotting a future invasion of Ireland. Struggling to come to terms with his new responsibilities, the callow Duggan is further undermined when his uncle, the politician Timmy Monaghan, prevails upon him to use his new position to discover the whereabouts of Timmy’s daughter, who has gone missing, presumed abducted. Joyce, who published a pair of critically acclaimed thrillers in the early 1990s, deftly charts Duggan’s path through the personal and the political, although it’s Joyce’s evocation of the tumult of the time, and the uncertainty of not knowing if the Germans would eventually invade – or the British, for that matter – that is particularly effective. Duggan at first appears to be an unusually passive character for the hero of a spy thriller, but it’s a canny ploy by Joyce. As the impressionable Duggan goes about his business of soaking up information from hawks, doves, spies and politicians, it’s left to the readers to make up their own minds about the thorny issue of Ireland’s neutrality during ‘the Emergency’. – Declan Burke
This review was first published in the Irish Times.
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.