A Line of Dogs


Gary Morris’ novel of romance and rebellion starts slowly. Mary McGrath leaves Ireland during the potato famine to work for wealthy relatives in London. There, she is raped and her life threatened. Mary finds sanctuary with Queenie, aka Margaret Fogarty, a prostitute. Mary and Queenie get on well—until Tim McGrath, Mary’s cousin, joins them. Tim hits back any way he can at the English, including through murder and bombing. When English police track Tim to Mary, Queenie, now in love with Tim, flees with them to Ireland.

The pace then quickens. Hotheaded Tim takes part in the failed Ballingarry Uprising, and Mary and Queenie help him get away, but they themselves are captured and transported to Tasmania. There, Mary falls in love with John Hammmersley, a thief. Parted from Mary, John runs from a sadistic guard, who shadows him to Eaglehawk Neck isthmus and The Line of Dogs, where savage canine sentinels annihilate the soldier. John’s escape and time in the wilds with aborigine Wurrindi and his mini-tribe is lyrical, almost mystical. The four lovers’ eventual reunion is marred only by Wurrindi’s tragic death.

A Line of Dogs is a good read laced with real characters and events. Occasionally, the dialogue can be a bit much—for example, “Oi Vey . . . Zis is ferry goot verk.” The most glaring fault, though, rests with the printer and his irregular paragraph beginnings. Mr. Morris’s debut deserves better.

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