Picks and Pans Review: The Patriot Game

UPDATED 05/24/1982 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/24/1982 at 01:00 AM EDT

by George V. Higgins

Like most of Higgins' novels about life in Boston's Irish underworld, this one is full of talk and mostly devoid of action, except for a violent climax. But the talk is almost always entertaining, reeled off at a fast clip and full of weary, homely wisdom. In this novel a Justice Department investigator, who is a foulmouthed, hulking Vietnam veteran, is trying to find out how a small-time hoodlum and the people who are trying to get him paroled are related to gunrunners supplying weapons to Northern Ireland's rebels. The case involves some Catholic priests, some hack politicians and people with nicknames like Seats, Ticker, Trimmer and Digger (the sleazy antihero of Higgins' The Digger's Game). "You know how we cops are," the investigator says at one point. "We're a little dense, a lot of the time, but if you put a couple angry owls in the shower with us, we will soon figure out that something a little out of the ordinary is under way." You have to take time to figure out Higgins; he's pretty far out of the ordinary too. (Knopf, $12.95)

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