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When Fergus McCann, 18, crosses the border from Northern Ireland into the Irish Republic to steal peat for his uncle to sell as fuel, what he digs up is a small body, an obvious victim of violence. Are the Troubles now claiming children? he wonders. But nothing is as it seems in the late Dowd's (The London Eye Mystery) rich work, set in 1981 and exploring sacrifices made in the name of family and freedom. Archeologists suspect the body is ancient, and they overrun the hillside of Fergus's discovery. Haunted by his find, Fergus learns its story in vivid dreams. Daylight provides no respite. His brother, an imprisoned IRA member, has joined Bobby Sands's hunger strike. His father salutes; his mother grieves. Three exams away from earning entrance to medical school, Fergus doesn't understand the strikers' mission, but his brother is resolute: "A coffin's a mighty statement, Ferg." Experiencing first love with the lead archeologist's daughter, Fergus is torn when he's blackmailed into being a courier by his brother's friend. Dowd raises questions about moral choices within a compelling plot that is full of surprises, powerfully bringing home the impact of political conflict on innocent bystanders. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.