The White House Connection (Sean Dillon Series #7)

( 9 )


New York: Late at night, the rain pouring down, a well-dressed woman in her sixties stands in a doorway, a gun in her purse, waiting for a senator to come home. Washington, D.C.: The phone rings on the desk of Blake Johnson, head of the White House department known as The Basement. The President wants him now. London: The Prime Minister sits thinking of Sean Dillon, the onetime terrorist, now his most effective, if not exactly most trusted, operative. It'll have to be Dillon, he thinks. There's no one else. ...
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New York: Late at night, the rain pouring down, a well-dressed woman in her sixties stands in a doorway, a gun in her purse, waiting for a senator to come home. Washington, D.C.: The phone rings on the desk of Blake Johnson, head of the White House department known as The Basement. The President wants him now. London: The Prime Minister sits thinking of Sean Dillon, the onetime terrorist, now his most effective, if not exactly most trusted, operative. It'll have to be Dillon, he thinks. There's no one else. Someone is killing off the members of a splinter group known as the Sons of Erin, normally not a cause for much concern, but the consequences are much greater than anyone realizes. For in these actions lie the seeds of disaster: the fall of two governments and the derailment of the Irish peace process. Dillon and Johnson must stop this unknown assassin, the heads of state agree, quickly, quietly, before all hell breaks loose... But they may already be too late. For in the Manhattan night, the silver-haired woman smiles, adjusts her rain hat more snugly on her head, and steps into the street. Four down, she thinks. Three to go.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Onetime terrorist Sean Dillon and ex-Marine Blake Johnson are in for the fight of their lives as they track a ruthless female killer who seeks retribution for her son's brutal death. If left unabated, however, her actions will cause governments and the fragile Irish peace process to crumble.
Beth Amos
Jack Higgins has been entertaining readers for years with his fast-paced novels of political intrigue and high suspense. His latest, The White House Connection , will be no exception. Back again are British brigadier Charles Ferguson, the director of an elite security group that operates just beyond the boundaries of the law, and his charismatic right-hand man, ex-IRA enforcer Sean Dillon. Joining them is Blake Johnson, who through an act of heroism that endeared him to the current U.S. President has been appointed director of the General Affairs Department of the White House, a cloak for the President's comparable secret entity, known as the Basement. Together, Blake, Ferguson, and Dillon, along with Chief Inspector Hannah Bernstein, try to discover who is systematically killing off the members of an underground IRA splinter group known as the Sons of Erin.

\ \ Lady Helen Lang is wealthy, titled, and well respected by members of both American and British high society. Yet ever since the death of her son three years ago and the death of her husband a few months later, she has found little joy or purpose in life. Then Tony Emsworth, an old friend with ties to the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), summons Helen to his deathbed. There he reveals a startling and horrifying secret: Helen's son, Peter, who was working as an IRA operative for the SIS at the time of his death and who was thought to have been killed in a car bombing, actually experienced a far grimmer fate. Due to a new information-sharing arrangement between Britain and the U.S., the identities and activities of Peter and the other four members of his covert group were provided to key personnel in the White House. The information was subsequently leaked to the Sons of Erin, who caught and killed the five-man team a short time later. Peter didn't actually die in a car bombing as was officially reported; rather he was captured and tortured by Jack Barry, leader of the Sons of Erin and a ruthless killer. When Peter didn't break under the torture, Barry had him stuffed into a concrete mixer at a highway construction site. The truth about Peter's death and the White House leak was covered up, and all the records related to the case were destroyed — except for a copy that Emsworth has, which he passes along to Helen.

\ \ Shocked and angered, Helen studies the file and carefully plans her revenge against the Sons of Erin with the assistance of her dedicated chauffeur and bodyguard, Hedley Jackson. One by one she begins to find, stalk, and kill the members of the now inactive group. She comes upon her fourth target, a London gangster named Tim Pat Ryan, just as he is about to kill Sean Dillon. Helen shoots Ryan in the nick of time, marking another name off her list and saving Dillon from certain death.

\ \ Though Dillon exchanges a few words with his mysterious female benefactor, she disappears before he has a chance to see her. Intrigued, he tries to find out who she might be and, in the course of his investigations, discovers the shooting deaths of several other men — deaths that appear to be readily explainable and unrelated to one another, yet that all lead back to the same gun that killed Ryan. Once Dillon realizes all the dead men were members of the Sons of Erin, he brings his American counterpart, Blake Johnson, in on the case, since one of the few members of the splinter group who is still alive happens to be a U.S. senator. Together they try to keep the senator alive and catch the mysterious killer, but their efforts are compromised by the still unknown White House connection.

\ \ As Lady Helen continues to work her way down her list, Dillon, Blake, and the rest of the team try to find out who she is and apprehend her. Their task is complicated by the fact that she has single-handedly eliminated some of the top names from both U.S. and British most-wanted lists — men whose deaths few will mourn — yet her actions threaten the delicate balance currently in place in the Irish peace process. Once Dillon and Blake finally do figure out who she is, her position, nature, and stature only muddy the waters that much more.

\ \ Eventually Helen whittles her list down to two men: Barry and the White House connection. By the time the identity of the White House connection becomes known, the wheels of chaos are set in motion. The end result is a heated race to a deadly finish, one in which several will pay the ultimate price.

\ \ Higgins is a master at crafting likable heroes and antiheroes whose motives and methods teeter on the edge of the morally just. The White House Connection poses a complicated scenario in which there are no easy answers and many of the issues are colored in shades of gray. Higgins is careful to avoid pat, trite solutions, opting instead for an ending that befits his complicated characters: complex, uncommon, yet wholly satisfying.

\ \ — \

Library Journal
Higgins's novel of British and American undercover security forces collaborating to stop Irish terrorists, identify a killer, and locate a mole in the White House is stronger on violence than suspense, yet it comes across well as an audiobook. When not killing people, the characters are swilling whisky, chain-smoking, and pondering past and future atrocities while nominally trying to bring peace to Northern Ireland. Reader Dick Hill has fun with character voices and gives the listener a feast of sound: the musical Irish accent of reformed terrorist Sean Dillon; the deep-pitched, thick, brutal voice of professional terrorist Jack Barry; the crisp, clean accent of hero Blake Johnson; the slightly Caribbean lilt of a Harlem cop; and the Boston clip of aristocratic and determined Lady Helen. Recommended for popular collections.--Juleigh Muirhead Clark, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Lib., Williamsburg, VA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.\
Kirkus Reviews
The Irish peace process is at risk in a listless thriller short on twists and devoid of tingles. Somebody's been gunning down the Sons of Erin, a terrorist group famous for gunning down others. In the interests of the peace process, this has to be stopped, say the American President and the English Prime Minister. Call out the clandestine hotshots. On the British side, that means Brigadier Charles Ferguson, cool of manner, clipped of speech, plus the redoubtable ex-terrorist Sean Dillon and Chief Inspector Hannah Bernstein, who have helped save Western Civ in several of Higgins's 29 novels (Flight of Eagles, 1998, etc.). It soon becomes evident that there is nothing political about the Sons of Erin offings. Those boys are being done in by Lady Helen Lang, a widow of mature years and the mother of an intelligence officer brutally slain by the group she is decimating. Lady Helen is not only lethal and determined, she also has remarkable ears. She overhears President Cazalet and his chums discussing the identity of an inner-circle spy. The President is in his apartment; Lady Helen is outside, below in the garden shrubbery. (Come now, Mr. Higgins!) Early on, Higgins deserts what there is of plot, yielding to a career-long passion for chases and shoot-outs. The current quarry is a villainous terrorist named Jack Barry. But he's one of those Moriarity-like villains, endlessly elusive. Finally, the ailing Lady Helen (a dicey heart) entices him to meet, man to woman, at her Norfolk estate. She has him in her gun-sights, and then, yet again, Dillon, that nine-lived devil, does his thing. But trust him to see to it that Lady Helen can die happy. At final curtain, Dillon says to Bernstein, "Doyou ever feel tired, my love? Really tired?" It's a question that might, with relevance, be put to the author. (Book-of-the-Month Club main selection)


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425175415
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/10/2000
  • Series: Sean Dillon Series , #7
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 1
  • Sales rank: 203,269
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Since The Eagle Has Landed—one of the biggest-selling thrillers of all time—every novel Jack Higgins has written has become an international bestseller. He has had simultaneous number-one bestsellers in hardcover and paperback, and many of his books have been made into successful movies, including The Eagle Has Landed, To Catch a King, On Dangerous Ground, Eye of the Storm, and Thunder Point. He has degrees in sociology, social psychology, and economics from the University of London, and a doctorate in media from Leeds Metropolitan University. A fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and an expert scuba diver and marksman, Higgins lives in Jersey on the Channel Islands.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Born in Boston in 1933 to one of Boston's wealthiest families, Helen Darcy's mother had died giving birth to her, and she was raised as an only child. Fortunately, her father truly loved her, and she loved him just as much in return. In spite of his enormous business interests in steel, shipbuilding, and oil, he took the time to lavish every attention on her, and she was worth it. Enormously intelligent, she went to the best private schools, and later, Vassar, where she found she had a special flair for foreign languages.

    To her father, only the best was good enough and, himself a Rhodes Scholar as a young man, he sent her to England to finish her graduate education at St. Hugh's College at Oxford University.

    Many of her father's business associates in London put themselves out to entertain her, and she became popular in London society. She was twenty-four when she met Sir Roger Lang, a baronet and one-time lieutenant colonel in the Scots Guards, now chairman of a merchant bank with close associations with her father.

    She adored him at once and the attraction was mutual. There was one flaw, however. Although he was unmarried, there was a fifteen years' age difference between them and, at the time, it simply seemed too much for her.

    She returned to America, confused and uncertain about the future, for business held no attraction for her, and she'd had enough of academia. There were plenty of young men, of course, if only for the wrong reason—her father's enormous wealth—but no one suited her, because in the background there was always Roger Lang, with whom she stayed in touch once a week by telephone.

    Finally, one weekend at their beach house on Cape Cod, she said to her father across the breakfast table, "Daddy, don't be mad at me, but I'm thinking of moving back to England ... and getting married."

    He leaned back and smiled. "Does Roger Lang know about this?"

    "Dammit, you knew."

    "Ever since you came back from Oxford. I was wondering when you'd come to your senses."

    She poured tea, a habit she'd acquired in England. "The answer is ... he doesn't know."

    "Then I suggest you fly to London and tell him," and he returned to his New York Times.

* * *

And so, a new life began for Helen Darcy, now Lady Helen Lang, divided between the house in South Audley Street and the country estate by the sea in North Norfolk, called Compton Place. There was only one fly in the ointment. In spite of every effort to have a child, she was bedeviled by miscarriages year after year, so that by the time her son, Peter, was born when she was thirty-three, it seemed a major miracle.

    Peter proved to be another great joy in her life, and she took the kind of interest in his education that her father had taken in hers. Her husband agreed he could go to an American prep school for a few years, but afterwards, as the future Sir Peter, he had to finish his education at Eton and the Sandhurst Military Academy. It was the family tradition—which was fine with Peter, for he had only ever wanted to be one thing, a soldier like all the Langs before him.

    After Sandhurst came the Scots Guards, his father's old regiment and, a few years later, a transfer to the SAS, for he had inherited his mother's ability with languages. He saw service in Bosnia and in the Gulf War, where he was awarded the Military Cross for an unspecified black operation behind Iraqi lines. And in Ireland, of course, the one place which never went away. Hand-in-hand with his ability for languages was a flair for dialects. He spoke not with some stage Irish accent but as if he were from Dublin or Belfast or South Armagh, which made him invaluable for undercover work in the continuing battle with the Provisional IRA.

    Because of the life he led, women figured little. The odd girlfriend now and then was all he had time for. The fear was real, the burden immense, but Helen bore it as a soldier's wife and mother should, until that dreadful Sunday in March 1996 when her husband answered the phone at South Audley Street, then replaced the receiver slowly and turned, his face ashen.

    "He's gone," he said simply. "Peter's gone," and he slumped into a chair and cried his eyes out, while she held his hand and stared blankly into space.

If there was one person who understood her grief that rainy day in the churchyard in the village church of St. Mary and All the Saints at Compton Place, it was Lady Helen Lang's chauffeur, Hedley Jackson, who stood behind her and Sir Roger, immaculate in his gray uniform as he held a large umbrella above them.

    He was six feet four and originally from Harlem. At the age of eighteen, he'd joined the Marine Corps and gone to Vietnam, emerging at the other end with a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts. Posted to the American Embassy Guard in London, he'd met a girl from Brixton, who was housekeeper to the Langs at South Audley Street. They had married, Hedley had left the service and been appointed the Langs' chauffeur, and had lived in the spacious basement flat and had a child, a son. It was an ideal life for them both, and then tragedy struck: Jackson's wife and son were involved in a multi-car pile-up in the fog on the North Circular Road, and were killed instantly.

    Lady Helen had held his hand at the crematorium, and when he had disappeared from South Audley Street, she had hunted him down through one bar after another in Brixton until she found him, sodden with drink and nearly suicidal, had taken him to Compton Place, and slowly, patiently, brought him back to life.

    To say that he was devoted to her now was an understatement, and his heart bled for her, particularly since Sir Roger's words to her, "Peter's gone," had hidden a horrific truth. The IRA car bomb which had killed him had been of such enormous strength that not a single trace of his body remained and, standing there in the rain, all they could commemorate was his name engraved in the family mausoleum.

Major Peter Lang, M.C., Scots Guards, Special Air Service Regiment 1966-1996 Rest in Peace

    Helen held her husband's hand. He had aged ten years in the past few days—a man once spry and vigorous now seemed old as if he'd never been young. Rest in peace, she thought. But that's what it was supposed to have been for. Peace in Ireland, and those bastards destroyed him. No trace. It's as if he's never been, she thought, frowning, unable to weep. That can't be right. There's no justice, none at all in a world gone mad. The priest intoned: I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord.

    Helen shook her head. No, not that. Not that. I don't believe anymore, not when evil walks the earth unpunished.

    She turned, leaving the astonished mourners, taking her husband with her, and walked away. Hedley followed, the umbrella held over them.

* * *

Her father, unable to attend the funeral because of illness, died a few months later and left her a millionaire many times over. The management team that controlled the various parts of the corporation were entirely trustworthy and headed by her cousin, with whom she'd always been close, so it was all in the family. She devoted herself to her husband, a broken man, who himself died a year after his son.

    As for Helen, she gave a certain part of her activities to charitable work and spent a great deal of time at Compton Place, although the one thousand acres that went with the house were leased out for large-scale farming.

    To a certain extent, Compton Place was her salvation because of its fascinating location. A mile from the coast of the North Sea, that part of Norfolk was still one of the most rural areas of England, full of winding, narrow lanes and places with names like Cley-next-the-Sea, Stiffkey, and Blakeney, little villages found unexpectedly and then lost, never to be found again. It was all so timeless.

    From the first time Roger had taken her there, she had been enchanted by the salt marshes with the sea mist drifting in, the shingle beaches, and sand dunes, and the great wet beaches when the tide was out.

    From her days as a child growing up in Cape Cod, she had loved the sea and birds, and there were birds in plenty in her part of Norfolk: brent geese from Siberia, curlews, redshanks, and every kind of seagull. She loved walking or cycling along the dikes, none of them less than six feet high, that passed through the great banks of reeds. It gave her renewed energy every time she breathed in the salt sea air or felt the rain on her face.

    The house had originally been built in Tudor times, but was mainly Georgian with a few later additions. The large kitchen was a post-war project, lovingly created in country style. The dining room, hall, library, and the huge drawing room were paneled in oak. There were only six bedrooms now, for others had been developed into bathrooms or dressing rooms at various stages.

    With the estate leased to various farmers, she had retained only six acres around the house, mainly woodland, leaving two large lawns and another for croquet. A retired farmer came up from the village from time to time to keep things in order, and when they were in residence, Hedley would get the tractor out and mow the grass himself.

    There was a daily housekeeper named Mrs. Smedley, and another woman from the village helped her with the cleaning when necessary. All this sufficed. It was a calm and orderly existence that helped her return to life. And the villagers helped, too.

    The laws of the British aristocracy are strange. As Roger Lang's wife, she was officially Lady Lang. Only the daughters of the higher levels of the nobility were allowed to use their Christian names, but the villagers in that part of Norfolk were a strange, stubborn race. To them she was Lady Helen, and that was that. It was an interesting fact that the same attitude pertained in London society.

    Any help anyone needed, she gave. She attended church every Sunday morning, and Hedley sat in the rear pew, always correctly attired in his chauffeur's uniform. She was not above visiting the village pub of an evening for a drink or two, and there, too, Hedley always accompanied her and, though you might not think it, he was totally accepted by those taciturn people ever since an extraordinary event some years past.

    An incredibly high tide combined with torrential rain had caused the water to rise in the narrow canal that passed through the village from the old disused mill. Soon it was overflowing into the street and threatening to engulf the village. All attempts to force open the lock gate which was blocking the water proved futile, and it was Hedley who plunged chest-deep into the water with a crowbar, diving under the surface again and again until he managed to dislodge the ancient locking pins, and the gate burst open. At the pub, he had never been allowed to pay for a drink again.

    So, although it had lost its savor, life could have been worse—and then Lady Helen received an unexpected phone call, one that in its consequences would prove just as catastrophic as that other call two years earlier, the call that had announced the death of her son.

    "Helen, is that you?" The voice was weak, yet strangely familiar.

    "Yes, who is this?"

    "Tony Emsworth."

    She remembered the name well: a junior officer under her husband many years ago, later an Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office. She hadn't seen him for some time. He had to be seventy now. Come to think of it, he hadn't been at either Peter's funeral or her husband's. She'd thought that strange at the time.

    "Why, Tony," she said. "Where are you?"

    "My cottage. I'm living in a little village called Stukeley now, in Kent. Only forty miles from London."

    "How's Martha?" Helen asked.

    "Died two years ago. The thing is, Helen, I must see you. It's a matter of life and death, you could say." He was racked by coughing. "My death, actually. Lung cancer. I haven't got long to go."

    "Tony. I'm so sorry."

    He tried to joke. "So am I." There was an urgency in his voice now. "Helen, my love, you must come and see me. I need to unburden myself of something, something you must hear."

    He was coughing again. She waited until he'd stopped. "Fine, Tony, fine. Try not to upset yourself. I'll drive down to London this afternoon, stay overnight in town, and be with you as soon as I can in the morning. Is that all right?"

    "Wonderful. I'll see you then." He put down the phone.

    She had taken the call in the library. She stood there frowning, slightly agitated, then opened a silver box, took out a cigarette, and lit it with a lighter Roger had once given her made from a German shell.

    Tony Emsworth. The weak voice, the coughing, had given her a bad shake. She remembered him as a dashing Guards captain, a lady's man, a bruising rider to hounds. To be reduced to what she had just heard was not pleasant. Intimations of mortality, she thought. Death just round the corner, and there had been enough of that in her life.

    But there was another, secret reason, something even Hedley knew nothing about. The odd pain in the chest and arm had given her pause for thought. She'd had a private visit to London recently, a consultation with one of the best doctors in Harley Street, tests and scans at the London Clinic.

    It reminded her of a remark Scott Fitzgerald had made about his health: I visited a great man's office and emerged with a grave sentence. Something like that. Her sentence had not been too grave. Heart trouble, of course. Angina. No need to worry, my dear, the professor had said. You'll live for years. Just take the pills and take it easy. No more riding to hounds or anything like that.

    "And no more of these," she said softly, and stubbed out the cigarette with a wry smile, remembering that she'd been saying that for months, and went in search of Hedley.

Stukeley was pleasant enough: cottages on either side of a narrow street, a pub, a general store, and Emsworth's place, Rose Cottage, on the other side of the church. Lady Helen had phoned before leaving London to give him the time, and he was expecting them, opening the door to greet them, tall and frail, the flesh washed away, the face skull-like.

    She kissed his cheek. "Tony, you look terrible."

    "Don't I just?" He managed a grin.

    "Should I wait in the Merc?" Hedley asked.

    "Nice to see you again, Hedley," Emsworth said. "Would it be possible for you to handle the kitchen? I let my daily go an hour ago. She's left sandwiches, cakes, and so on. If you could make the tea ..."

    "My pleasure," Hedley told him, and followed them in.

    A log fire was burning in the large open fireplace in the sitting room. Beams supported the low ceiling, and there was comfortable furniture everywhere and Indian carpets scattered over the stone-flagged floor.

    Emsworth sat in a wing-backed chair and put his walking stick on the floor. A cardboard file was on the coffee table beside him.

    "There's a photo over there of your old man and me when I was a subaltern," he said.

    Helen Lang went to the sideboard and examined the photo in its silver frame. "You look very handsome, both of you."

    She returned and sat opposite him. He said, "I didn't attend Peter's funeral. Missed out on Roger's, too."

    "I had noticed."

    "Too ashamed to show my face, ye see."

    There was something here, something unmentionable, that already touched her deep inside, and her skin crawled.

    Hedley came in with tea things on a tray and put them down beside her on a low table. "Leave the food," she told him. "Later, I think."

    "Be a good chap," Emsworth said. "There's a whiskey decanter on the sideboard. Pour me a large one and one for Lady Helen."

    "Will I need it?"

    "I think so."

    She nodded. Hedley poured the drinks and served them. "I'll be in the kitchen if you need me."

    "Thank you. I think I might."

    Hedley looked grim but retired to the kitchen. He stood there thinking about it, then noticed the two doors to the serving hatch and eased them ajar. It was underhanded, yes, but all that concerned him was her welfare. He sat down on a stool and listened.

    "For years I lived a lie as far as my friends were concerned," Emsworth said. "Even Martha didn't know the truth. You all thought I was Foreign Office. Well, it wasn't true. I worked for the Secret Intelligence Service for years. Oh, not in the field. I was the kind of office man who sent brave men out to do the dirty work and who frequently died doing it. One of them was Major Peter Lang."

    There was that crawling feeling again. "I see," she said carefully.

    "Let me explain. My office was responsible for black operations in Ireland. The people we were after were not only IRA, but Loyalist paramilitaries who, because of threats and intimidation of witnesses, escaped legal justice."

    "And what was your solution?"

    "We had undercover groups, SAS in the main, who disposed of them."

    "Murdered, you mean?"

    "No, I can't accept that word. We've been at war with these people for too many years."

    She didn't pour the tea but reached for the whiskey and sipped some. "Am I to understand that my son did such work?"

    "Yes, he was one of our best operatives. Peter's ability to turn on a range of Irish accents was invaluable. He could sound like a building site worker from Derry if he wanted to. He was part of a group of five. Four men, plus a woman officer."


    "They all came to an untimely end within the same week. Three men and the woman shot ..."

    "And Peter blown up?"

    There was a pause as Emsworth swallowed the whiskey, then he got up and lurched to the sideboard and poured another with a shaking hand.

    "Actually, no. That's just what you were told." He swallowed the whiskey, spilling some down his chin.

    She drank the rest of her whiskey, took out her silver case, selected a cigarette, and lit it. "Tell me."

    Emsworth reached the chair again and sank down. He nodded to the file. "It's all in there. Everything you need to know. I'm breaking the Official Secrets Act, but why should I care? I could be dead tomorrow."

    "Tell me!" she said, her voice hard. "I want to hear it from you."

    He took a deep breath. "If you must. As you know, there are many splinter groups in Irish politics, both Catholic and Protestant. One of the worst is a nationalist outfit called the Sons of Erin. Years ago, it was run by a man called Frank Barry, a very bad article indeed, and almost unique—he was a Protestant republican. He was eventually killed, but he had a nephew, named Jack Barry, who had an American mother. He'd been born in New York, then gone to Vietnam in 1970, when he was eighteen, on a short-term commission. There was some kind of scandal—apparently he shot a lot of Vietcong prisoners, so they turfed him out quietly."

    "And then he joined the IRA?"

    "That's about it. He took over where his uncle left off. He's a murdering psychopath, who's been doing his own thing for years now. Oh, and another bizarre thing. Jack's great uncle was Lord Barry. He had a place on the Down coast in Ulster called Spanish Head. It's part of the National Trust now. His father died when he was a child, and Frank Barry was killed just before his old uncle died."

    "Which leaves Jack with the title?"

    Emsworth nodded. "But he's never attempted to claim it. He could be proscribed as a traitor to the Crown."

    "I wonder. I think executions on Tower Hill went out some years ago. But Tony, please, get to the point."

    He closed his eyes for a moment, then sighed and continued. "There was a man called Doolin, who used to drive for Barry. He ended up in the Maze Prison, and we put an informer in his cell. Our man had an ample supply of cocaine and eventually had Doolin telling his life story from birth."

    "My God." She was horrified.

    "It's the name of the game, my dear. Doolin had not been with Barry during the time in question, but his story was that Barry was on a high as he drove him north to Stramore, on pills and whiskey. He told Doolin he'd just taken out an entire undercover British group thanks to the New York branch of the Sons of Erin, and with a little help from someone he called the Connection. Doolin asked who this Connection was, and Barry said no one knew, but that he was an American, and then he started acting all coy, and talking about the detectives who'd operated out of Dublin Castle for Mick Collins in the old days."

    "So the implication was that this Connection was someone very high up and on the inside? But where? How?"

    "For years, British Intelligence has had a link with the White House, especially because of the developing peace process. Information has been passed to what were supposed to be friends on a need-to-know basis."

    "Including information on my son's group?"

    "Yes. I thought that was going too far, but those more important than I, people such as Simon Carter, Deputy Director of the Security Services, ruled against me. And then Doolin was found hanged in his cell."

    She went and poured another whiskey and turned. "It gets more like the Borgias every minute. And as you've avoided explaining your remark about Peter not being blown up, I think I'm going to need this." She swallowed half the whiskey. "Get on with it, Tony."

    "Yes, well, the Sons of Erin. They passed on information obtained from the Connection. They all had contacts in Dublin and London." He was in agony and showed it. "It's in the files. Everything's in there, all the players, photos, the lot. I copied the Top Secret file and ..."

    "Tell me about Peter."

    "They snatched him coming out of a pub in South Armagh, Barry and his men. They tortured him, and when he wouldn't talk, beat him to death. They were building a new bypass road nearby, down to the Irish Republic. It had one of those massive concrete mixers that works all night. They put his body through it."

    She sat there, staring, silent, then suddenly swallowed the rest of the whiskey.

    He carried on. "They blew up his car with the heavy charge to make it look as if he'd gone that way. I mean, they needed us to know he'd gone but couldn't send us a postcard saying how."

    He was a little drunk now. She cried out and put a hand to her mouth as she stood and ran for the door. She made it to the toilet in the hall and vomited into the basin again and again. When she finally wiped her face and came out, Hedley was there.

    "You heard?"

    "I'm afraid so. Are you okay?"

    "I've been better. Tea, Hedley, hot and strong."

    She went back into the sitting room and sat down. "What happened? Why was nothing done?"

    "They decided to keep it black, which was why you weren't told the truth. We had operatives check Republican circles in New York and Washington. We discovered there was indeed a New York dining club called the Sons of Erin. The names of the members are all in the file, along with their photos. They're prominent businessmen, one's even a US Senator. It all fit. There had already been examples of privileged information from London to Washington ending up in IRA hands."

    "But why was nothing done?"

    Emsworth shrugged. "Politics. The President, the Prime Minister—no one wanted to rock the boat. Let me tell you something about intelligence work. You think the CIA and the FBI keep the President informed about everything? Hell, no."


    "It's just the same in the UK. MI5 and MI6 have their own dark secrets, and they not only hate each other, but also Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist unit and Military Intelligence. For proof of that, you'll find two interesting entries in the file, one American, the other Brit."

    "And what do they refer to?"

    "There's a man called Blake Johnson at the White House, around fifty, a Vietnam veteran, lawyer, ex-FBI. He's Director of the General Affairs Department at the White House. Because it's downstairs, it's known as the Basement. It's one of the most closely guarded secrets of the administration, passed from one President to another. It's totally separate from the FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service. Answers only to the President. The whispers are so faint people don't believe it exists."

    "But it does?"

    "Oh, yes, and the British Prime Minister has his own version. It's there in the file. Brigadier Charles Ferguson runs it."

    "Charles Ferguson? But I've known him for years."

    "Well, I don't know what you thought he was, but his outfit is known in the trade as the Prime Minister's private army. It's given the IRA a bad time for years. Ferguson has a sizable setup at the Ministry of Defence and is responsible only to the P.M., which is why the other intelligence outfits loathe him. His right hand is an ex-IRA enforcer named Sean Dillon; his left, a Detective Chief Inspector named Hannah Bernstein, granddaughter of a rabbi, if you can believe it. Quite a bunch, huh?"

    "But what has this to do with anything?"

    "Simply, that the Secret Intelligence Service didn't want Ferguson and company involved, because Ferguson might have told the Prime Minister, and Ferguson has a private contact with Blake Johnson, which meant the President would have been informed and SIS couldn't have that."

    "So what happened?"

    "SIS started to send the White House mild and useless information and disinformation. There was no way of implicating the members of the Sons of Erin. And then the file was lost." He reached for the folder and held it up. "Except for my copy. I don't know why I took it at the time. Self-disgust, I suppose. Now, I think you should have it."

    He started to cough, and she passed him a napkin. He spat into it and she saw blood. "Should I get the doctor?"

    "He's calling in later. Not that it'll make any difference." He gave her a ghastly smile. "That's it, then, now you know. I'd better lie down."

    He rose, picked up the stick, and walked slowly into the hall. "I'm sorry, Helen, desperately sorry."

    "It's not your fault, Tony."

    He heaved himself up the stairs and she watched him go. Hedley appeared behind her, holding the file. "I figured you'd want this."

    "I surely do." She took it from him. "Let's move on, Hedley. There's only death here."

Back in the Mercedes, as they drove through the narrow lanes, she read through the file, every detail, every photo. Strangely enough, she dwelt on Sean Dillon longer than anyone: the fair hair, the self-containment, the look of a man who had found life a bad joke. She closed the file and leaned back.

    "You okay, Lady Helen?" Hedley asked.

    "Oh, fine. You can read the file yourself when we're back at South Audley Street."

    She felt a flutter in her chest, opened her purse, shook two pills into her hand, and swallowed them. "Whiskey, please, Hedley," she said.

    He passed back the silver flask. "What's going on? Are you okay?"

    "Just some pills the doctor gave me." She leaned back and closed her eyes. "No big deal. Just get me to South Audley Street."

    But Hedley didn't believe her for a moment and drove on, his face troubled.\

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 2, 2009

    Sean Dillon.....The thru James Bond

    Jack Higgins is one powerful writer, always "on the edge of your chair" thriller.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2003

    A thoroughly entertaining book by a master of suspense

    I¿ve read few Jack Higgins books, and this was my first. That said, I didn¿t know any of the recurring characters or their stories, yet it didn¿t make a difference. The story makes perfect sense without foreknowledge of the characters, and this was still a great book. In the opening pages, an assassin waits patiently for a Senator to arrive at his residence. Against the backdrop of a light rain, two men pull a woman into an alley with the intent to rape her. The assassin comes to her aid, and we find that the assassin is an old woman, a kindly old grandmother! From this moment on, my interest was peaked. I had to find out who this woman was, how she entered her profession, etc. I was not disappointed. 'The White House Connection' is a spy thriller true to its purpose, perfect for a rainy day or an extended plane ride. If you like Jack Higgins, you¿ll definitely love this novel. And if you¿ve never read his work, this is a great starting point. For a quick reality escape, read this book! >>>> Britt Gillette, Author of 'Conquest of Paradise'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2001


    As a fanatic Jack reader (this was title number 23)I thought I could not be surprised much, especially after the announcement that the crack-team of the presidents daughter would be there again.Well I was wrong; what I expected was there, but the smooth plot & the nice interconnection between characters and their history, gave more then expected. It was thrilling, it was nice, the atmosphere was right and above all, it gave back the old 'Jack-feeling' in a new way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2000


    This book is exciting when you think something will happen something else does and little pop-ups excite you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2000

    Very much of a page turner!!!!!

    This was my very first Higgins book and I was very interested in what i've read. I would have never picked up a book like this being the fact that I don't know much about the IRA and things along that line. This book has definetly opened up my mind and has got me wanting to read more of Higgins' work. The only problem I had with the book was the ending. The main bad guy died a little too easy to me. His seath should have been very gruesome and very painful. I didn't really agree with that part. Other than that, I look forward to my next Higgins tale...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2000


    This is my first read of Higgins, and if this is typical of his work, I don't get it. Granted, he keeps the pages turning, but with a plot so implausible that it becomes, by book's end, a joke. Every time the good guys need a key piece of information, they get it -- just in time. Everytime a character needs to be at a certain place at a certain time to advance the action, he/she miraculously appears. Against all odds, the principals, including a sloppily guarded president of the U.S., all show up at the same dinner party on Long Island. Rarely in literature have I seen so many people inevitably turn up at just the right place at just the right time. And all of them one-dimensional characters speaking in comic book dialogue. Open to almost any page, read a few lines of dialogue and ask yourself: Who in the world talks like this? My question is not how Sean Dillon and Blake Johnson manage to pull this off. My question is: How does this tripe get published?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2000

    Best Reading Ever!!!

    It was kind of boring in the beginning part of the novel, which were telling about the 'Sons of Erin' stuff. But the story was very good as I got on reading it. I really would recommend this novel to others who especially enjoys Sean Dillon.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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