So, since I’m currently hard at work getting War to the Knife finished, I’ve resumed the SOBs readthrough. I’m a bit behind–I got sidetracked last year. So, we’re picking back up at Soldiers of Barrabas #13 – No Sanctuary. (Yes, I realize that I haven’t reviewed the last three. I’ll have to go back and refresh on Vultures of the Horn, Agile Retrieval, and Jihad.)
(For those unfamiliar, the Brannigan’s Blackhearts series was conceived in late 2017 as a sort of spiritual successor to the Soldiers of Barrabas. While Able Team, Phoenix Force, and their joint operations in Stony Man are perhaps better-known, the SOBs caught my imagination a bit more immediately. They’re grittier and a bit more grounded. The first one, The Barrabas Run, is basically a poor man’s Dogs of War.)
The SOBs, like the Blackhearts, tend to take deniable missions from the US government, funneled to them by a walking mountain of a man named Walker Jessup. (Jessup has had to get involved a couple of times, always to his chagrin; he likes food a lot more than fighting.) But No Sanctuary is more of a personal story. Because Liam O’Toole’s past has come back to haunt him.
O’Toole was an IRA fighter in his youth, before he left, emigrated to the US, joined the Army, and became a Special Forces soldier in Vietnam. After Vietnam, he became a mercenary, and has been Nile Barrabas’ right hand for the previous twelve books.
Except that he recently got married, retired from the merc life, and has now taken his bride on vacation to Ireland. Ireland in the early ’80s, when the Troubles were still going strong.
And the IRA doesn’t forgive or forget.
This is not the strongest entry in the series, if we’re being honest. It does touch on the mutual savagery of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. And a common thread in O’Toole’s story from the beginning illustrates another element to the Troubles–not everyone rallied behind either flag. O’Toole’s mother disowned him as soon as she found out that he’d joined the IRA. And she’s refused to acknowledge a son named Liam ever since.
But while it does touch on the real-world stuff, it’s a more personal story than that, revolving around Liam, his history, and the rescue mission that the SOBs launch when he’s betrayed and goes missing in Belfast.
The story is…workmanlike. It’s not bad, but it didn’t quite grab me the way some of the others have. Beck and Nanos are even more over the top than usual, and it’s kind of an annoying distraction. Seamus Killerby, the main villain, chews the scenery more than I think most of the SOBs villains have in the past.
Overall, it’s decent, and it’s set in a war that’s largely forgotten outside of Ireland these days.