The Poison Tree

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Queen Elizabeth is targeted for assassination by the IRA in this chilling thriller, the semi-pseudonymous hardcover debut of Michael O'Rourke (The Darkling, a paperback horror novel; numerous TV documentaries). Old hatreds are dying hard in the Ireland of 1997, particularly within the heart of legendary Irish terrorist Michael Kileen, who plans to sabotage an uneasy peace by having the queen killed during her upcoming trip to California. The scheme hinges on a master deception: forcing, under threat of death, 17-year-old Billy Quinn, whose father was killed long ago by British soldiers, to pose as one Brian O'Malley. Brian's grandfather, who has never seen his grandson, is celebrated filmmaker and war hero Major James Queally-Smythe, now residing in California, who will be honored by the queen during her visit. During the ceremony, it is eventually revealed, Billy will detonate a bomb secreted on Queally-Smythe. But after Queally-Smythe enlists the help of a pretty teenage neighbor to usher Billy/Brian into American society, the young man begins to have a change of heart and transforms from pawn to knight. Deftly mixing spy shenanigans and adolescent angst, this sexy, shadowy melodrama is most engaging. (Mar.)
Library Journal
The IRA relocates teenager Billy Quinn from Belfast to Beverly Hills to participate in a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth. He assumes the identity of Brian O'Malley, grandson of Major Queally-Smythe, a noted film director, and enrolls in a posh private high school. As the plot thickens, young Billy settles into his new life quite comfortably, falling deeply in love with the girl next door and growing increasingly close to the elderly Major. When the time comes for him to detonate the charge, killing the queen at an exclusive consulate reception, Billy must choose between his love for Kelly and the Major and his loyalty to the IRA. Unfortunately, O'Rourke's (The Darkling, HarperCollins, 1994. o.p.) slender plot is populated with predictable characters and lacks the substance and tension necessary to hold readers of suspense yarns. Not recommended.-Susan Clifford, Hughes Aircraft Co., Los Angeles
School Library Journal
YA-Violence erupts in Los Angeles as a small unofficial splinter group of the IRA, headed by madman Michael Kileen, devises an elaborate plan to kidnap Brian O'Malley, the grandson of soon-to-be-honored Brigadier James Queally-Smythe, in an attempt to assassinate Queen Elizabeth. The plot is thick and contrived as 17-year old Billy Quinn suddenly finds himself whisked away from West Belfast to posh Pacific Palisades, CA, and Pacific Academy High, attempting to pass himself off as Brian O'Malley-all for The Cause. Executions and bombings; humor and pathos; romance and the freewheeling world of LA; justice and a satisfying ending-all are found here. Through flashback and dreams, readers learn the whys of the entanglement and hatred as both Billy Quinn and Michael Kileen are drawn into the IRA. The complexity of their feelings and the lack of an easy solution to peace in the region are reinforced throughout the novel. The story moves quickly; chapters are short and alternate between action in California and in Ireland. A fast-action narrative that will keep YAs riveted until the very last page.-Dottie Kraft, formerly at Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
George Needham
"Beverly Hills 90210" meets "In the Name of the Father" in this far-fetched but well-written thriller. Teenage Irish terrorist Billy Quinn has been dispatched to Los Angeles to impersonate the orphaned grandson of an elderly British filmmaker in a complex plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth. The plot is the brainchild of the darkly handsome but utterly mad Michael Kileen, an unregenerate killer who uses "the Cause" (Irish reunification) to feed his blood lust. Billy fouls up Kileen's plan by falling in love with a beautiful classmate, developing a grudging admiration for his putative grandfather, and making a Parnell-like speech on Irish independence in his high-school history class. The contrast between the deprivation in the slums of Northern Ireland and the mindless consumer culture of Southern California is strikingly depicted, and Billy's ruminations on the morality of terror and the Cause give the novel unexpected but welcome weight. The novel condemns all sides in the endless sectarian violence, suggesting that only time and distance can remove the poison of hatred from the Irish soul.
Kirkus Reviews
A lurid first hardcover about a renegade IRA unit that—despite the promise of ceasefire talks aimed at bringing peace to Northern Ireland—soldiers on with a mad scheme to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II on her scheduled visit to Los Angeles.

At 18, Billy Quinn (whose father was gunned down before his eyes in 1985 Belfast) is a battle-scarred veteran of the IRA's bloody campaigns against the British. Acting on instructions from Michael Kileen (a legendary figure in the Republican Cause), he agrees to participate on a need-to-know basis in what could prove a suicide mission to southern California. The die-hard terrorist Kileen first sends handsome, quick-witted Billy to L.A. to replace Brian O'Malley, the recently orphaned grandson of widower Major James Queally-Smythe, an aging English film director haunted by memories of his estranged daughter and WW II internment by the Japanese. While unsure precisely what his assignment entails, Billy assumes the role of Brian (who has been kidnapped in Ulster). Kileen also dispatches two equally ignorant boyos, thuggish Francis Duffy and dreamy Dermot Tumelty, to L.A. to do the dirtier work his insane plot requires. Meanwhile, charming Billy is accepted without question by the major (who has not seen Brian in over a decade) and makes a name for himself as a lady's man at Pacific Academy. His only real conquest, though, is Kelly Huston, a caring classmate who senses he may have more troubles than the average teenager. When Kileen arrives in L.A., the lads suspect he has more in mind than simply embarrassing the Crown at a reception to honor Queally- Smythe; indeed, they conclude that he means to kill the Queen and leave them holding the bag—or, worse, dead in the resultant carnage. Acting on their own initiative, they frustrate Kileen's best-laid plan at the 11th hour.

'Tis, as the denizens of a Dublin pub might attest with nods and winks, a grand tale.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684802145
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 3/11/1996
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.10 (d)

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