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Book Review Turning the tables on the terrorist stereotype

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

REMEMBRANCE DAY, by Henry Porter. Simon & Schuster. 365 pp. $25.

A few years back, there was a big fuss when the film version of Tom Clancy’s "Patriot Games" introduced us to the exploits of the reluctant but, in the end, fully equipped hero figure of Dr. Jack Ryan. Movies, of course, don’t always fully reflect the books they are based on and that may have been the reason why Clancy more or less escaped the widespread annoyance felt by Irish and Irish Americans alike over the way that different nationalities were portrayed in the movie.

The various characters were neatly slotted into their places in the screen version: crazy, bloodthirsty Irish terrorists stalking suave and civilized British royalty. That our hero’s name happened to be an Irish one hardly mattered as the crazy Paddies nearly blew London to pieces in their efforts to ruin royalty’s day and had to be taken out, like so many mad dogs, by the likely lads of the SAS in a desert hideaway planted deep in what passed for Qadafi’s Libya.

Since "Patriot Games," history has taken one of those interesting turns and the mad-dog Irish terrorist, while not entirely gone the way of the dinosaurs, is not quite the potent force he once was, either in Hollywood or the publishing business that provides so much of Tinseltown’s basic material.

Enter author Henry Porter, whose novel "Remembrance Day" presents the somewhat unfamiliar picture of a bunch of British soldiers who have gone off the deep end following a traumatic experience in Northern Ireland and are now blowing people up all over the place with bombs triggered by nothing more complicated than the kind of technology you can buy in Radio Shack.

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Of course, the Irish start out as the usual suspects and our Jack Ryan character, also a doctor, who goes by the name of Constantine Lindow, gets sucked into the fray for the simple reason that he’s too close to the first big bang and happens to have been born in the borderlands of troubled Ireland. But what seems to be an open-and-shut case is anything but, and thanks to Lindow’s own considerable intellectual prowess, combined with the sleuthing talents of Britain’s top anti-terrorist police officer, a very different picture begins to emerge as the story bounces from England to Ireland, across the ocean to Boston and Maine, and back again.

The author is U.K editor of Vanity Fair and has written for a number of leading newspapers. He cleverly explains along the way how frighteningly simple it is to employ everyday technology to kill people, sometimes in large numbers. There are times when the technical explanations go on a bit, but, overall, this is a briskly written book with a good plot line, one that fits well into the ever more complex weave of post-peace process Irish-British relations.

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