Lawlor, David; TAN A Story Of Exile, Betrayal and Revenge
‘Peelers have a knack for hitting you where it hurts; broken nose, bruised ribs, a few loosened teeth…no more than a rapist deserved, Sergeant Coveney and District Inspector Webber had said. Proper order, too – except the lad was no rapist, and Webber knew it.’
It’s 1914 and Liam Mannion is forced into exile for a crime he didn’t commit. He flees Balbriggan, the only home he has ever known and travels to England, where he enlists and endures the torment of trench warfare in France. Five years later he’s back in England, a changed man, living in the shadow of his battlefield memories. Liam finds work in a Manchester cotton mill but prejudice and illness soon see him destitute. Starving and desperate, he enlists in a new military force heading to Ireland – the Black and Tans – and is posted to the very town he fled as a youth.
While he has been away Liam’s childhood friends have joined the republican cause, while his brother has allied himself to the Crown forces. Liam must wrestle with his own conflicted feelings about duty to the ruthless Tans and loyalty to his friends. The potent combination of ambition, patriotism and betrayal collide, forcing him to act as he comes face to face with the man who spread lies about him all those years before.
I’ve just finished reading David Lawlor’s TAN and frankly I’m all done in! On page one I was transported to Balbriggan, Ireland in 1914 and thence to the Continent for the first World War and back again to Ireland for a horrifying story based on factual events.
Lawlor is a masterful storyteller and I was scarcely able to put his book down for meals or sleeping. Each character in this tale became real for me. I endured their fears and felt the bile of anger and frustration rising in the back of my throat. I smelled the cordite hanging in the air after a pitched battle, and fell exhausted back into my chair.
The awful history of the Tans meting out their twisted sense of “justice” in British occupied Ireland is a story well known to all. In TAN, David Lawlor has made it personal and real. It isn’t without its moments of levity though; there were smiles and laughter enough.
I did need to look up, and clarify a few Irish slang terms early on but it didn’t detract from the story at all. I’m not even certain looking them up was necessary for the enjoyment of the story. That’s just my way. The pace of the tale is tight and well written with little “cliff hangers” tossed in here and there that made me more and more anxious as the story progressed. The immensely satisfying ending left me with an enormous smile on my face despite the fact that I am sorry to be saying farewell to a group of characters I quickly came to love.
This book is a definite 5 star read that I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who enjoys history, action, and mystery/suspense. Get it. Read it. You’ll love it!