Drink with the Devil

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

DRINK WITH THE DEVIL is a thriller of wide scope: the scene shifts between Belfast, London, the United States and the English Lake District; it involves the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), several factions of Northern Ireland Protestant paramilitaries, the Mafia, Scotland Yard, and several of those vague secret organizations which are at the personal call of the president of the United States and the British prime minister.

The story centers around one hundred million pounds of gold bullion, hijacked in Scotland in 1985 by a renegade Protestant paramilitary, Michael Ryan, and his niece Kathleen. The IRISH ROSE is hired to ferry the gold but goes down in a storm just off the coast of Northern Ireland. Ten years later, various forces decide that the recovery of the gold would be useful. The hard-line Protestant paramilitaries want to finance a peace-destroying war on the IRA; the IRA wants to finance its own operations; the U.S. and British governments want to prevent the money being used by anyone to disturb the fragile peace in Northern Ireland; and the Mafia sees it as a good investment.

Sean Dillon, a former IRA enforcer and now an employee of British Intelligence, is assigned by the president and the prime minister to thwart those who would disturb the peace. Ruthless when necessary, Dillon is provided (as are all the others) with appropriate armaments and the latest in technology. All parties have colleagues and former associates on whom they can call for special knowledge at crucial moments. The action is swift and frequently bloody.

Action is all, and there is little attempt to give much sense of place. Character is stereotypical for Irish and Mafioso types alike. The action is presented in short sections which try, generally successfully, to keep the simultaneous action of three or four groups or individuals balanced. This juggling of action back and forth drives the narrative and probably makes this novel a worthy candidate for another Higgins’ filmscript.