Danny McGuire doesn’t like his job, but he’s good at it. Since his brother’s murder eight years earlier he has become a professional killer: a hit man for hire, bent on retribution. The Job: Danny’s been contracted to eliminate the ‘Thevshi’ – the Ghost’ – the most elusive informant that has ever penetrated the Republican movement in Northern Ireland. But there’s a problem: the Thevshi claims to know who’s responsible for his brother’s death. Danny’s never killed someone he needed to talk to first. The Target: When Finn O’Hanlon (A.K.A. the Thevshi) is attacked in a bar in Alabama he realises that his past has finally caught up with him. Forced to flee, he embarks on a desperate journey to find Danny McGuire before it’s too late. The Complication: What Danny McGuire and Finn O’Hanlon don’t know is that they’re up against someone who’s spent years hiding a secret, and it’s a secret they’ll go to any lengths to protect…          

This is the first in a two book deal secured by actor John Gordon Sinclair and sure to gain him  membership of the Tartan Noir pack. With a title taken from a Bible quote in which St Peter says there is no limit to the forgiveness you can have for someone and that it could be seventy times seven, Sinclair has crafted a fast moving and page-turning thriller reminiscent of the brilliant ‘Michael Forsythe’ series by Irish crime writer Adrian McKinty. Sinclair has cleverly  adopted the writing style of the creme de la creme of the Irish thriller writing scene, Bruen, Neville et al and melded it with the sure-footed, fast-talking and terse prose prevalent in American crime fiction. Although originally conceived as a potential film script, there is more than enough meat on its bones to make this a highly readable and competent thriller that would indeed translate very well to film if the situation arose. With it’s Atlantic hopping setting from Limavady, Northern Ireland to the one horse town of Tuscaloosa,  Alabama,  there are thrills and spills galore with enough violent shoot-outs and well-drawn central protagonists to keep you hooked; the characters both sides of the Atlantic being convincingly brought to life and driving the central plot along well. The assured characterisation is indeed probably the strongest aspect of the book with some protagonists  being very, very, bad indeed (which I particularly liked) and others with blurred boundaries of good and evil in their search for retribution. Nice to see a couple of  sassy female characters, although this was clouded somewhat by the inevitable love interests that arise- this always tends to spoil some of the best action movies as well but such is the nature of the genre and only a minor quibble on my part. 

Sinclair has recently said in an interview that he would aspire to be as good as someone like Ian Rankin and says in a wonderful self-deprecating way: “It is quite exciting. I am a fan of Ian Rankin. Like the care in the community guys that go on X Factor believing they can sing, I always had this notion that I should have been Rebus. But it is one of those misplaced things where you see it on the telly and think, ‘What was I thinking?’ Well, no John, this is only your first book but I think we can say that you’re definitely on the right track! A good read and one I can thoroughly recommend…

‘Seventy Times Seven’ to be published 6th September

(Thanks to Faber & Faber for the advance reading copy)

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