The Bottom Line: A captivating coming of age story about an Irish weapons trafficker.
“This will all make sense one day.” That’s what James Grant tells his son, David, shortly after he’s pulled from his bed in Portadown, Northern Ireland. It’s the 1970s, and car bombings, shootings and other violent acts are relatively common. But this one is personal. David’s father attempted to assassinate a terrorist. Now he’s a wanted man.
Stephen W. Briggs’ tale begins when David is just seven. He’s been born into the family’s weapons trafficking business, a multi-generational enterprise that supplies weapons and explosives to biker gangs, the mob, governments and other groups. Briggs’ depiction of what childhood is like as the family goes on the run to Canada while attempting to survive and thrive is truly captivating.
Family of Killers spans different eras as David grows up and, with the help of a childhood friend, not only grows the business, but makes it more successful than ever. But the cost is the knowledge that danger lurks around every corner. As David navigates a variety of adventures, he has plenty of gut-wrenching decisions to make.
The story feels realistic thanks to its depiction of typical family communication issues in the midst of what is a rather chaotic life. Hats off to Briggs as he illustrates the dynamics of a large family – and the ordinariness that comes with it – while injecting it with surprise after surprise. In nearly every chapter, matter-of-fact business wisdom heightens the suspense (“There is nothing worse than having a car break down on the side of the road with fifty pounds of C-4 and TNT on the way to a job”). As in many books attempting to cover such vast time periods, Briggs occasionally resorts to exposition, but readers will nevertheless be hooked until the heartbreaking finale.