Lies of Silence Summary

Summary (Literary Masterpieces, Critical Compilation)

Lies of Silence is a suspense novel, a study of human nature, and an examination of the conflicts in Northern Ireland. What connects all three aspects is the recognition of mystery: the mystery of a thriller, the mystery of human beings, and the mystery of political and religious conflict.

The suspense novel revolves around a plot initiated by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to assassinate a Protestant clergyman. A group of IRA men plan to place a bomb in the car of Michael Dillon, the manager of the hotel in which the clergyman is scheduled to speak. Breaking into Dillon’s house, the IRA conspirators take Dillon and his wife, Moira, hostage; they force him to drive his car to the hotel, telling him that Moira will be killed if he informs the police.

Dillon drives to the hotel, as directed, but telephones the police in time to evacuate the guests and employees. Moira is not physically hurt by the gang, but she is hurt by what she perceives as her husband’s lack of concern for her welfare and, eventually, by what she learns about him—that is, he is planning to leave her for life in London with Andrea, a Canadian who works for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The conclusion of the suspense novel revolves around Dillon’s departure and the relentless pursuit of the IRA to prevent him from identifying the gang that had held him and his wife hostage.

This suspense novel is also a study of human beings who are mysterious, enigmatic individuals. Michael Dillon is a middle- aged man, unhappy in his marriage and with his decision to have abandoned his earlier calling as a poet. Additionally, he is unhappy living in Northern Ireland, seeing it as a place of irreconcilable and unresolvable conflicts. What author Brian Moore has called “the fragility of the self” is apparent in Dillon: He is a vulnerable human being who sees Andrea and London as the way out of his entrapment. Unfortunately for Dillon, in this novel, as in life, there is no simple, happy ending for a complex, unhappy individual.

Dillon’s wife, Moira, is another example of the fragile self. A beautiful woman fearful of losing her physical attractiveness, Moira is bulimic, a condition described by a doctor as being associated with women who “want to become a stereotype of helpless, dependent, female beauty.” Additionally, according to the doctor, bulimics can be suicidal.

Moira and Dillon also exemplify Moore’s interest in the moment of crisis when individuals are faced with complexities and choices that will change their lives forever. In the case of the Dillons, their captivity by the IRA gang, brief as it was, transforms them. The capture puts Dillon into the position of risking his wife’s life on behalf of the many lives of people in the hotel; choosing the welfare of many over the safety of Moira complicates his life irreversibly. Similarly, Moira decides, after the capture, to proclaim the atrocities of the IRA on the airwaves, assuming a kind of Joan of Arc approach to life, as one of her friends points out. Like Dillon, she is changed by this decision, transformed from...

(The entire section is 1269 words.)