David Lawlor has written another action-packed historical thriller, where Liam Mannion and the other characters come alive on the pages of A Time of Traitors. Some of the traitors in this third book of the series are obvious; others subtly disguised as compatriots; and yet others a complete surprise as the novel unfolds. From Ireland to London, the story sweeps from back rooms, cozy parlors, and seamy joints in London’s Soho District.
The story, while set in 1921, is timeless despite the specific details of the struggle between the Irish Republican Army and the British. Mr. Lawlor shows the horrors of war and expresses some universal themes about love, loyalties, revenge, and treacheries. There are times when this universality allows the reader to forget time, only to be delivered into a place where life can change in an instant and turns on the simple decisions made in anger and jealousy.
The characterizations in A Time of Traitors are rich, adding depth to even minor characters such as Charlie Curtis:
His head was large and square, with thick lips and wide nostrils. In fact, everything about him was over-sized – as though he had been cobbled together from parts in his own scrap yard – from his wide nostrils to the thick folds of skin that ran up each side of his mouth, from the shovel hands to the broad, bony shoulders. The only thing delicate about his block– like appearance was the care and attention he bestowed to his thinning hair. Charlie had spared no effort in its oiling and sculpting – somehow working its sparse tendrils into a swirling sinuous wave that, miraculously, managed to cover his large dome, albeit forsaking the back and sides as a lost cause to be left bare to the elements.
Liam’s fiance Kate is a strong female lead and a match for Liam and his loyalty to his family, friends, and country. In the midst of violence and danger, their love is sweet and romantic–a much needed antidote to the war and not-so-peaceful truces between the opposing factions. The young boy Albie is not soon forgotten with his Camelot-like devotion to his mentors. Mr. Lawlor turns him from an idealistic young boy into a Dickensonian character with shocking outcomes. Liam’s father Dan is modeled after Mr. Lawlor’s own father, and the affection for his character is deftly drawn in this novel, as well as the previous two.
The evil characters come across as the worst nightmares for anything civil and gentile, and serve as a perfect foil for the heroes of this book.
I’m a fan of both David Lawlor and Liam Mannion, and I fervently hope that just because this is the third book in the series, it is not the final one.