The Year of the Gun (The Irregular)

Written by H. B. Lyle
Review by Edward James

This is the third in Lyle’s series of espionage novels set in the early years of the British Secret Service, before WWI.  The year of the gun is 1912, the year that both the IRA and the UVF armed themselves for the coming ‘troubles’ in Ireland.

As in the two previous novels, there is a mix of real events and characters, such as Vernon Kell, founder of the Secret Service; imagined characters, such as Wiggins, Kell’s star agent; and characters from other authors’ imaginations, notably Sherlock Holmes.  Wiggins is an Edwardian James Bond, equally indestructible but more introspective.

Despite the title, the gun runners do not put to sea until page 200.  Indeed, gun running does not enter the plot in the first 100 pages, and Wiggins is in such deep cover that the reader does not know until page 120 that he is still working for the Secret Service.  Wiggins’ adventures are exciting, but there would have been more tension had we known his true mission earlier.   Nevertheless, a good, fast-moving thriller.