Cover image of "A Prayer for the Dying," a novel about a Catholic's confession

Over the course of five decades, he has used many names; Martin Fallon is just one of them. He carries a huge load of guilt for the tragic errors of his past. As a soldier for many years in the Irish Republican Army — the military force known as the Provos — he was responsible for an uncounted number of deaths. Now Fallon is a mercenary of sorts, a gun for hire. And a new mission involves him in circumstances that turn upon a Catholic’s confession.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

A tale of violence and redemption

A Prayer for the Dying opens in the city of Hull, in the north of England, early in the 1970s. In hopes of securing a passport and the necessary funds to flee the country, Fallon agrees to kill the chief rival of a local crime boss, and he carries out the assignment with cold efficiency. There’s just one hitch: standing just feet away in the cemetery where the murder takes place, a Catholic priest witnesses the act. Thus begins an intriguing tale of violence, guilt, contrition, and redemption.

A Prayer for the Dying by Jack Higgins ★★★★☆

A crime boss, a killer for hire, and a confession

Six principal characters figure in this well-crafted and suspenseful thriller, all of them fully fleshed-out and interesting in their own right. Apart from Fallon, they include the ruthless crime boss, “Dandy” Jack Meehan, and his sex-crazed younger brother, Billy; the priest, Father Michael da Costa, a former soldier in Britain’s Special Air Service, a British special forces unit; the priest’s blind niece, Anna da Costa; and Detective-Superintendent Miller, the veteran cop who heads the Hull CID. The four-way relationship among these characters revolves around the inviolability of the confession in the eyes of the Church.

About the author

Jack Higgins is the favorite pseudonym of the bestselling English author Harry Patterson. Though Patterson has written 84 novels in a career spanning six decades, he is probably best known for two: The Eagle Has Landed (1975) and A Prayer for the Dying (1973). Both were made into major motion pictures, although nine other Patterson novels were, too.

A longer than usual author biography of Patterson appears at the end of the novel and includes a number of photos of the author at various stages of his life. (At this writing, he is 86 years old.) He’s a fascinating man, the equal of any of his characters.

You might also enjoy my posts:

And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, on the Home Page.