By Paul Waters
Maverick cop Jolly Macken goes looking for a killer, but accidentally starts a war
About the book
Police sergeant Jolly Macken finds it hard to tell his friends from his enemies. When he’s banished to the quiet Irish border village of Blackwatertown, Macken vows to find out who killed the man he’s replacing – even if it turns out to be another officer. But a lot can happen in a week. Over seven days Macken falls in love with the bewitchingly beautiful Aoife, uncovers family secrets, accidentally starts a war and is hailed a hero and hounded as a traitor.
Macken has always had trouble fitting in. As a Catholic, he’s viewed with suspicion by the rest of the mainly Protestant police force. But as a policeman, he’s isolated from his fellow Catholics because he serves the British Crown. When Blackwatertown explodes into violence, who can Macken trust? Which side should he take? Are anyone’s hands clean – even his own? And is betrayal the only way to survive?
The story is set around the fictionalised village of Blackwatertown, which sits in lush countryside on the centuries-old border between Elizabethan and Irish-controlled Ireland and not far from today’s Irish border – currently featuring in its own Brexit drama. The action takes place during a little-known IRA insurgency in the 1950s. The intertwining of fact and fiction is based on murky episodes from Ireland’s past and the author’s own family history. Blackwatertown’s initial sense of calm foreshadows the current uneasy peace in Northern Ireland.
Blackwatertown has been described as LA Confidential meets The Guard. Legendary thriller writer Frederick Forsyth, author of The Day of the Jackal, says Blackwatertown is “a fascinating story with intricate twists and turns” and that Macken’s “position as a Catholic police officer in hardline Unionist RUC is extremely intriguing.” BBC Radio 4 presenter Rev Richard Coles describes Blackwatertown as “extraordinary, abundant, dazzling and full of incident.” Leading BBC journalist and Northern Ireland expert Peter Taylor said Blackwatertown is “engaging and reads really well.” Readers have described Blackwatertown as “exciting”, “moving” and “funny”, and they identify so strongly with the leading characters, that their responses range from “it made me cry” to “it made me want to punch you in the face!” (Please don’t, Barry.)