My contribution to Patti Abbott’s Friday Lost Book Project is the debut novel by John Creed “The Sirius Crossing” published by Faber and Faber which won the 2002 Ian Fleming Dagger Award. I did a little research and discovered that John Creed was in fact Eoin (pronounced 'Owen') McNamee. The self same writer who's debut had been Resurrection Man, a deeply dark look at the violence of the Shankill Butchers (a sadistic loyalist gang that operated in Northern Ireland in the 1970's). He also penned the screenplay to the brutal but highly acclaimed film adaptation. Since then he has published The Blue Tango which made the Booker 'long list', as well as the brilliant Princess Diana conspiracy thriller “12:23 Paris. 31st August 1997”.
It is however his ‘debut’ thriller featuring Jack Valentine that bewitched me, and despite the Dagger win, this novel didn’t sell as well as I’d predicted – it is brilliant, and one that needs to be rediscovered. The bonus is that it has an existential air about it, but one that is hidden by the fumes of cordite that appear when you crack its spine.
The Sirius Crossing is a seriously good thriller from a writer who despite at times bordering on the literary certainly cooks up a real contemporary espionage brew. It grips from the introductory paragraph and keeps you clinging on like the characters battling the storm that lies at the centre of this tale. Jack Valentine is a British spy working for MRU a shady government intelligence organisation. He is sent into Northern Ireland to recover a file that vanished over twenty years ago by an aborted US operation. In so doing he runs into his former girlfriend, Deidre and her brother (and close friend) Liam Mellows. Mellows is an IRA enforcer on the run from both the Provisionals as well as the RUC following a rumour that he's become an informer. Valentine recovers the file and soon discovers that its contents are very sensitive and linked to some shady US Government types. He and Mellows go on the run pursued by a conglomerate of vicious acronyms consisting of CIA, RUC, IRA as well as Valentine's own organisation the MRU. Aided by a veteran smuggler Regan, they flee Ireland in Valentine's old trawler and head off into the North Sea. Not only are they pursued by a stealthy freighter but by a battering storm that would test George Clooney's sea-faring abilities to the limit. The real theme of the book is how friendships can survive when they are forged in the brutal world of death and treachery that forms the world of espionage and covert war. The story is told in first person which allows the cynicism of Valentine to flow and contrast abrasively with the brutality that he has seen in his life. The characters are well delineated and the skulduggery plausible in the world that Eion McNamee creates. The title is a nice play on 'crossing' which signifies more than just the journey from Ireland to the UK, and the US Dimension adds that edge of paranoia making the fingers sweat a little more on the triggers. The conclusion is full of pyrotechnics and gives the tale a cathartic flourish after much brutality and violence. Highly recommended and John Creed is a name to watch out for - if you like deeply character driven espionage tales.
10 years ago