GOERING’S GOLD by Richard O’Rawe

GOERING’S GOLD

Richard O’Rawe

Melville House (mhpbooks.com)

£12.99

Buy a copy from your favourite independent bookshop

Ex-IRA member, and the man who robbed a Belfast bank and got away with £36.5 million, James “Ructions” O’Hare, is living in hiding with his girlfriend, in a small French village. When his hiding place is discovered by the IRA, Ructions turns to his old friend, Serge Mercier, for help. What Serge presents him is a business opportunity in the form of Hermann Goering’s ceremonial baton, said to be the key to the location where Hitler’s second-in-command hid a cache of gold just before the end of World War II. The catch? In order to get his hands on the fabled gold, Ructions must return to Ireland, where he is most definitely persona non grata. As he begins negotiations with the head of the IRA’s Army Council, Ructions also finds himself a person of interest for half of Europe’s police forces and a neo-Nazi group who call themselves the Fourth Reich, and who have their sights set on owning a certain ceremonial baton, at any cost.

Richard O’Rawe, himself an IRA operative and bank robber who spent time in Northern Ireland’s infamous Long Kesh prison during the equally-infamous 1981 hunger strike, introduced James “Ructions” O’Hare in his first novel, Northern Heist, which details the bank robbery that leads to Ructions’ self-exile in rural France. Happily, no knowledge of the previous book is required before reading Goering’s Gold, as O’Rawe helpfully recaps the events of the previous book as and when required. Despite Ructions’ chosen allegiances, he quickly becomes a character with whom we can easily empathise, if not necessarily come to like, as we follow his exploits. A sort of Irish version of Richard Stark’s Parker, he’s a man of few words, a man who takes no shit, and a man for whom the job is all-encompassing until it is done and he can relax.

Goering’s Gold has a fairly simple, linear plot. There’s no mystery here, as we follow Ructions’ journey to find the eponymous treasure. As he proceeds, he draws people to himself, many of whom seem to have been part of his first heist, to help with various aspects of planning and carrying out the job. O’Rawe also takes time to show us things from different viewpoints, focusing variously on Tiny Murdoch (IRA soldier who took the brunt of the organisation’s wrath for Ructions’ bank heist), Paul O’Flaherty (IRA Army Council chief), Karl Keller (neo-Nazi leader of the Fourth Reich) and Eleanor Proctor (Ructions’ girlfriend) to show how Ructions’ actions are perceived by – and affect – those around him.

As a child who lived in Belfast through the period euphemistically referred to as “The Troubles”, I was a bit dubious about this one at first. But O’Rawe doesn’t glorify the organisation to which he once belonged, nor justify their actions. Instead, he focuses on Ructions as he is now, and on the job at hand, so the book becomes a heist novel with, at its centre, a character that we haven’t met before but who might, very conceivably, exist in this post-Good Friday Agreement world. Goering’s Gold is crime fiction from a classic mould, a well-written caper that, while not nearly as lean as the books of Richard Stark or Lawrence Sanders, is their natural successor, bringing the genre into the modern age. Anyone who enjoys a certain type of hardboiled fiction would do well to add O’Rawe’s novels to their lists, and become acquainted with the one-and-only Ructions O’Hare.

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