BOOK REVIEW / Dial the Mission for murder: 'Overthrown by strangers' - Ronan Bennett: Hamish Hamilton, 14.99
Saturday 01 August 1992
The book won the Irish Times Aer Lingus First Fiction Award and one critic even likened 'the pace of this complex and successful moral tale' with Greene and Le Carre, a comparison that must have delighted this intelligent and ambitious writer.
Bennett's second novel Overthrown by Strangers is a different kind of political thriller. Again, it begins in Belfast, where Sean Quinn, IRA, is on the run, naked. A soldier, lifting his gun to shoot, chuckles, loses concentration, loses his man. Later, (fully- dressed) Quinn is shot in the face by his best friend Denis, who is after Quinn's wife. Surviving - just - Quinn flies to America where his luck gives out altogether; eventually he is shot dead in a field in Guatemala by an agent acting for the sinister New Era Mission of Christ. Poor, easy-
going Quinn. In spite of his rackety life, you feel he doesn't quite deserve this.
Bennett has assembled an impressive cast of characters ranging from prisoners, terrorists and born-again Christians, but he is primarily concerned with the private struggles of three people: Quinn, sick, adrift, 'prowling the edges of other people's lives'; Agustin, an illegal immigrant from Peru scarred both by his childhood and his experiences in prison there; and Judy, who believes the Mission to be involved with the disappearance of her sister in Guatamala. When Agustin murders missionary leader Andrew Jank, the ill-assorted trio flee to Mexico knowing the Mission will close in on them.
The villains of the book are the hypocritical missionaries, determined to bring not just the Word to the Indian communities in Latin America, but the American version of the Word - and by whatever means are necessary.
Ronan Bennett's writing is coloured by the total of three and a half years he has spent in prison, in Long Kesh and as a high-security prisoner in Brixton, held with others on conspirary to cause explosions. Conducting his own defence at the Old Bailey, he was acquitted.
Yet the author reserves little compassion for his characters. None is destined to be happy - or to live. Much of the intricate plot is told in a series of flashbacks which require concentration. And the cruelty, squalor, degradation, indifference to life and hopelessness of Latin America wore this reader down in the end.
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 East 17 bandmember Brian Harvey in 'very desperate situation’
- 2 Germanwings plane crash: Video shows co-pilot Andreas Lubitz learning to fly as a teenager
- 3 Vladimir Putin says Russia will fight for the right of Palestinians to their own state
- 4 Germanwings crash: Captain of doomed plane was only 'on board because he changed job to spend more time with his children'
- 5 WrestleMania 31 results: Seth Rollins stuns WWE as he cashes in Money in the Bank contract to claim title from Brock Lesnar
Cassetteboy joins forces with Russell Brand for Emperor's New Clothes film
Poldark, review: Demelza’s insouciance is almost as impressive as Ross’ pecs
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
James May hints he will not continue on Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity, TV review: The affable Englishman routine is wearing a bit thin
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew