Reviews for Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland

by Patrick Radden Keefe

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In 1972, Jean McConville, single mother of ten, was believed to be an informant for the British army. For that reason, she was kidnapped by a group of masked IRA (Irish Republican Army) members and never heard from again. Three decades later, her remains were uncovered. Sandwiched in the decades in-between was the violent conflict in Northern Ireland commonly known as the Troubles. The story of McConville and the Troubles is told here by New Yorker staff writer Keefe (The Snakehead and Chatter). Shifting focus between the people involved in the IRA, such as Dolours Price, Gerry Adams, and Brendan Hughes, and McConville and her family, the author illustrates how interconnected Northern Ireland was during the conflict and how trauma, as well as silence about trauma, can destroy individuals, families, and communities. Drawing on controversial oral histories from Boston College as well as personal interviews, archival materials, affidavits, newspapers, memoirs, and a variety of other sources, Keefe blends threads of espionage, murder mystery, and political history into a single captivating narrative. VERDICT Keefe deftly turns a complicated and often dark subject into a riveting and informative page-turner that will engage readers of both true crime and popular history.—Timothy Berge, West Virginia Univ., Morgantown Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Keefe, a New Yorker staff writer, uses the abduction of a widow and mother of 10 children, ranging in age from 20 to 6, from their squalid Belfast apartment in 1972, as the entry point for a deep-diving history of the conflict in Northern Ireland and its immense aftershocks. The secrecy that fueled all aspects of the conflict is emphasized throughout, starting with the prologue, in which Keefe details how detectives from the Northern Ireland Police search the Boston College Library in 2013 for secret files relating to the murder of Jean McConville, the long-ago abducted woman. Keefe spent four years researching this book, traveling seven times to Northern Ireland and conducting more than 100 interviews. The book is an extensive and often wrenching view of this bloody patch of history, especially fascinating in the way Keefe shows how indoctrination worked at the family level. While he identifies it as narrative nonfiction, the writing here is more straight historical account, rather than an immersive exploration, but it will definitely draw those interested in the Irish ""Troubles.""--Connie Fletcher Copyright 2010 Booklist

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Half a century after the fact, a cold case in Northern Ireland provides a frame for a deeply observed history of the Troubles.In 1972, though only 38, Jean McConville was the mother of 10, trying to raise them on a widow's pension in a cloud of depressiona walking tale of bad luck turned all the worse when she comforted a wounded British soldier, bringing the dreaded graffito "Brit lover" to her door. Not long after, masked guerrillas took her from her home in the Catholic ghetto of Belfast; three decades later, bones found on a remote beach were identified as hers. These events are rooted in centuries of discord, but, as New Yorker staff writer Keefe (The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream, 2009, etc.) recounts, the kidnapping and killing took place in the darkest days of the near civil war between Catholics and Protestants. Another Belfast graffito of the time read, "If you're not confused you don't know what's going on," and the author does an excellent job of keeping an exceedingly complicated storyline on track. At its heart is Gerry Adams, who eventually brokered the truce between warring factions while insisting that he was never a member of the IRA, whose fighters killed McConville. "Of course he was in the IRA," said an erstwhile comrade. "The British know it. The people on the street know it. The dogs know it on the street." Yet, as this unhappy story shows, one of the great sorrows of Northern Ireland is that naming murderers, even long after their crimes and even after their deaths, is sure to bring terrible things on a person even today. Keefe's reconstruction of events and the players involved is careful and assured. Adams himself doubtless won't be pleased with it, although his cause will probably prevail. As the author writes, "Adams will probably not live to see a united Ireland, but it seems that such a day will inevitably come"perhaps as an indirect, ironic result of Brexit.A harrowing story of politically motivated crime that could not have been better told. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

New Yorker staff writer Keefe (Snakehead) incorporates a real-life whodunit into a moving, accessible account of the violence that has afflicted Northern Ireland. The mystery concerns Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10, who was snatched from her Belfast home by an IRA gang in 1972. While Keefe touches on historical antecedents, his real starting point is the 1960s, when advocates of a unified Ireland attempted to emulate the nonviolent methods of the American civil rights movement. The path from peaceful protests to terrorist bombings is framed by the story of Dolours Price, who became involved as a teenager and went on to become a central figure in the IRA. While formal charges were never brought against republican leader Gerry Adams in McConville's murder, Keefe makes a persuasive case that McConville was killed at his order for being an informer to the British-and the author's dogged detective work enables him to plausibly name those who literally pulled the trigger. Tinged with immense sadness, this work never loses sight of the humanity of even those who committed horrible acts in support of what they believed in. Agent: Tina Bennett, WME. (Feb.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.