Thor Caithness is a successful lawyer enjoying life as one of the clubbable barristers of the Northern Circuit. But when he takes on an impossible case, Caithness’ genial existence begins to unravel.
Paul Duffy has been found by the police next to his dead lover’s body, in a flat locked from the inside and with the murder weapon in his hand. Worst of all, the prosecuting counsel is one of the most renowned QCs in the country, eager to make his mark on one final criminal trial before his elevation to the High Court. While the case seems hopeless, Duffy’s despair at the death of his lover persuades Caithness to take it on. But as evidence of Duffy’s innocence mounts, so the danger rises: Duffy survives a stabbing in the prison yard and Caithness is involved in a car accident that he soon finds was an attempt on his life.
As he recovers, Caithness is approached by two plainclothes officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch (SO15): Superintendent Ian Galbraith and DS Luther Hansen. They reveal that Duffy’s boyfriend had once been a feared assassin for an Irish republican organisation and was suspected of leading the bombing team that murdered a senior British politician in the Houses of Parliament in the late 70s. The bombing had been conducted with the assistance of a mole inside the Commons whose identity had never been discovered. The detectives believe Duffy to be innocent and the mole to be the killer of the one man who could still unmask him.
As the hunt for a key witness intensifies, Caithness works with the Special Branch men to lay a trap for the mole. But rather than finding the him, they instead discover a corrupt police Inspector acting as the cut-out man in the operation. When the detectives try to arrest the murderous policeman, he escapes, only to be killed by the mole, who is intent on covering his tracks.
The story reaches its climax on Duffy’s day in court, with the revelation that the mole is none other than the prosecuting QC, the eminent Mathew Corbett. Having set aside his youthful indiscretions as a crusading human rights lawyer, Corbett has now become part of the establishment. In order to protect his reputation, he has killed anyone who might connect him to his past. Now, as Caithness brings his actions into the light, Corbett takes the younger barrister hostage and tries to flee the court building. Eventually, after a tense stand-off, Corbett is cut down in a gunfight with Caithness’ Special Branch allies.
Harry McCallion is in a unique position to write a comprehensive account of the undercover war in Ireland from the British perspective. Harry is the best-selling author of the ‘SAS memoir’ Killing Zone . Killing Zone stands out among the other major memoirs of the 1990s for its unflinchingly honest portrayal of the brutality of life in the Special Forces and its refusal to fetishise or glamourise the business of killing. This kind of honesty is essential for the writing of a history of undercover operations during the Troubles.
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