On Sean Corrigan’s 21st birthday, he gets an unexpected gift from the man he expects nothing from, his father. In the space of a few minutes, Sean finds out that he had an uncle, Michael, who died before he was born. Michael was accused of shooting a black civil rights worker in cold blood before he fled to Ireland, joined the IRA, and was later killed as a traitor. Sean’s gift includes his uncle’s journal, an attractive bank account and a ticket to Ireland- an open opportunity to investigate his uncle’s crimes and punishment. Sean’s investigation into Michael’s past teaches him more about his heritage, and introduces him to colorful relatives, dangerous situations, and maybe even the love of his life.
Until The Next Time is an engrossing read, though not without flaws. Fox has created characters and dialogue that leap off the page as the novel unfolds through the dual narrative of Sean in his present day 1996, and Michael, through journal entries, from 1972. Both narratives offer plenty of tension. Sean faces danger because what he finds out about his uncle’s guilt or innocence could implicate others who don’t want their secrets exposed, and Michael’s is especially tense because, among other things, you really want to know whether he shot an unarmed man or if there is something more to that situation than meets the eye. Complicating things is the mysterious Kate, whose old letter to Michael, Sean finds. The secrets are everywhere.
Fox ambitiously takes on religion and reincarnation; Irish faith, history and politics; and a murder mystery. After a while the books starts to flag under so much weight. It is well-balanced until about the middle when it become too philosophical and way too preachy. Characters run on and on while trying to prove their points and it was very repetitive. A lot of history of the IRA, the Provos and Bloody Sunday is included in the novel, but not in a way that its easily understood without having an overview of the history, and the reincarnation story line and who is fighting whom gets muddled in the midst of it all. I had a lot of unanswered questions about Fox’s version of reincarnation, and the similar character names within the generations was somewhat problematic. The story rights itself by the last quarter, getting back to the heavy suspense that makes it a page turner, but the ending left me less than satisfied and with a vague feeling that I missed something somewhere.
Fox, a screenwriter, has an awesome ear for dialogue. You will really feel as if you were in Ireland with his use of language and with the way he can set a scene. Readers wanting heavy debate on Irish history, religion and politics will find much to chew on. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for Fox’s next novel, especially if its topics stay closer to home.