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From the late 1960s until the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, more than 3,500 people lost their lives in Northern Ireland during the religious-nationalist conflict known as the Troubles. A small number of these casualties—16 men and two women, most of them suspected of being informers—were abducted, killed, and secretly buried by republican and loyalist paramilitaries.
One of the “disappeared” was a widowed mother of 10 children named Jean McConville. Unravelling the mystery of her fate forms the central narrative of Patrick Radden Keefe’s riveting book Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (Doubleday 2019).
Most notable among the perpetrators was Dolours Price, an active member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army and a participant in the bombing of London’s Old Bailey Courthouse in 1973.
Keefe interweaves her story with that of McConville’s disappearance, adding insights into the Troubles and the conflict’s larger repercussions. The result is not a history book about the Troubles, but a powerful work of nonfiction that can serve as a textbook study of the human toll of tribal conflict and civil war, especially on those who engage in them with the best intentions.
Reviewed by Film and Media Digital Archivist Jim Hone.