Review: Some Service to the State, by Aidan McQuade

Aidan McQuade’s first novel, The Undiscovered Country (2020), was a bit of a hybrid — part crime novel, part history of Ireland in the period just after Partition. It was terrific because McQuade is both a natural story-teller as well as a first-rate historian. This is the sequel, set several years later. There are now two Irelands, one under British rule, the other a “Free State”. The dreams and hopes of many of those who fought for Irish independence have not been fulfilled. The story revolves around the former Republican Policeman (and later IRA fighter) Mick McAlinden, who has spent several years in British custody and is now resigned to a quiet life. But he’s recruited by a female doctor friend (another character from the previous book) to help him locate a patient, a 14-year-old girl who got pregnant and has disappeared. Her fate, and the fate of others around her, encapsulates the tragedy of Ireland at that time, and the terrible role played by the Church in its treatment of girls who “have sinned”. Because of McQuade’s background as a prominent anti-slavery activist, the book doesn’t hesitate to draw comparisons between what would happen to a girl like that and slavery. A gripping tale, well-told.