Blind Arrows

Written by Anthony J. Quinn
Review by Jeanne Greene

Quinn mixes love, violence, and treachery in the simmering cauldron that is Dublin in 1919. Hopes for an independent republican state did not end with the aborted uprising of 1918. Donations from Americans support the Irish Republican Army’s preparation for war.

Michael Collins, the IRA leader, is on thin ice—bogged down in financial minutiae, suspected of misusing funds, while the British, who have a price on his head, hold information that refutes the financial charges. Martin Kant, a reporter from London, has tuberculosis. Work is keeping him alive. He feeds on information from British intelligence and spies so he can write about the murders of young women with IRA ties.

Lily Mirren is secretary to the head of British intelligence, a widower whose young son has been kidnapped. After a meeting with Kant, who falls in love with her, Lily disappears. Kant is concerned that Lily is involved with the IRA. Is her son being ransomed to get information? If so, Lily may be in serious trouble—or dead. Worrying about Lily gets Kant mixed up in Collins’ business and puts him in constant danger.

Blind Arrows deserves a close reading. The plot takes several unexpected turns and the characters, for good or ill, can’t be pigeonholed—with one exception. The serial murders are unnecessarily gruesome. Quinn’s genius lies in pairing the magnetic Collins in a mesmerizing dance with the pathetically ill but determined Kant. Quinn also knows his history, taking us behind the scenes when the British are trying to get Collins’ support for compromise by convincing him the Irish can’t win by violence. Blind Arrows is recommended for anyone interested in 20th century Irish history.