Irish-born Aloysius is a freelance killer for hire. Advertising his services – the ‘hard solve’ – on the Dark Web, he arranges fatal accidents, convenient deaths. ‘My job is the only job in the world where people you should have killed will throw it back in your face.’
Living off-grid, an old contact from home offers him work. Aloysius doesn’t take the bait and gets cornered by Imelda, the steely head of a shadowy unit close to the Irish government. ‘You’re dressed, Aloysius, like someone who might arrive to service a horse and cart . . . You look like you styled your hair in a public toilet and through a fucking hat.’
She lures him in and sets him up to kill four of the nation’s most hated citizens. It’s all part of an extraordinary, ruthless PR operation, as the state prepares to mark its centenary. ‘This is a young little nation and, like any youth, it needs a little bit of guidance, a bit of a push onto the next level, to a place where it can know itself better.’
As he gets to work, Aloysius is plunged into a web of high tech international espionage. It quickly becomes clear that powerful forces are watching his every move – and want him permanently out of the way.
I loved this book. There are elements of politics, espionage, patriotism, nurture vs nature, Irish Troubles, shady dealings, friendship, dodgy clergy, people getting their comeuppance and a twisty plot. But if any of those definitions are not for you, don’t be put off because this is a rollicking good story with lots of surprises and really can’t be defined by any single theme.
Aloysius Tempo has “a past”. We don't know what that is to start with, but learn some of it throughout the story. But however he got here, he is now a freelance killer for hire, advertising his services on the dark web. And he is good – all his clients have given him a five-star rating. The ‘accidents’ he arranges cannot be traced back to him or his clients. He lives in Amsterdam and is as off-grid as it’s possible to be.
Only it turns out his work is not quite as untraceable and his life not quite so off-grid as he thought, and he is being head-hunted by a secret government agency in Dublin that has a few jobs for him – specifically, by Imelda and Martin, who have secrets of their own. Although the story is set largely in Ireland, you don't need to know the country to enjoy it.
I have a soft spot for assassins (in literature). Usually, though, they are hard, ruthless, cold and calculating men shaped by their past. Aloysius Tempo is ... a hard, ruthless, cold and calculating man shaped by his past. But he is very different from the norm. Maybe it’s because we are inside his head a lot of the time; maybe it’s because he is not completely self-assured; maybe it’s because he is a loner with a rubbish dress sense and a habit of trying to guess everyone's age (and two years out is “pretty far off”). Maybe it’s because of the off-beat way this is written and the humour that slips in.
The story is written in first-person present. The point of view is consistently that of Aloysius, which leaves the reader in the dark as much as he is at times. It is brilliantly conceived and plotted. I kept being lulled into misconceptions about Aloysius. At first I got the impression he was actually a bit dim; but clearly he is not. I thought he was lucky; but clearly he is an intelligent planner. I thought he was ruthless; but he has a moral code – perhaps not quite the same as most of us, but a code nonetheless. I really liked that I was led to think one thing but then forced to reconsider, and sometimes reconsider again, and I really liked that I couldn’t see where the plot was heading.
The story is left open-ended, although with a 99% chance that Aloysius has met his match. But on the next page the publisher asks us: “Should Aloysius return?” So maybe a 1% chance that Aloysius can outsmart his foe will be sufficient if enough of us answer “yes”. And I am definitely answering yes.
Editorial Input & Design
Editorial input: This is a very professionally produced book. Editing is invisible, as it should be.
Cover: Simple and effective.
Internal design: I read the paperback – a professional job.
Book Clubs & Reviews
Book clubs: This would be suitable for a book club, but probably not an obvious choice. There would be a fair amount to discuss: secret government agencies, hit-men for hire, does it matter if someone offs a bad guy?, the motivations of Aloysius, Imelda and Martin, the twists in the story. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but that in itself could make for interesting discussion.
What others are saying: I was surprised to find so few ratings on the normal sites, and I fear that people may be missing out by not knowing about this book. Amazon UK readers give it 5 stars (2 reviewers); Amazon US – no ratings; Goodreads readers give it 3.67 stars (3 ratings).
Buy & Author
Published by Liberties Press in Ireland and available from their website.
Liberties Press (paperback €13.99)
Kenny's, Ireland (paperback €10.88, free postage worldwide)
Casemate IPM (paperback $13.99)
Amazon (pb £9.50/$13.99; Kindle £2.99/$4.43)
Follow the author:
Links of interest:
Jason Johnson for RTÉ, ‘Author reveals inspiration for his 'Irish James Bond' novel’
Jason Johnson for Irish Times, ‘An Irish novel written with James Bond in mind’