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The Morning Line
Tom Kenny, author

Adult; Mystery/Thriller; (Market)

On a raw winter night in Northern Ireland, a misplaced bullet from the rifle of a British Army sniper sets off a series of events that culminate a decade later on a sun-filled Saturday at Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York. In those intervening years, a brother and sister are torn apart by the violence gently known as the Troubles. Feisty Annie McGuire seeks retribution. Her brother, Aidan, schemes for more than an eye for an eye. Aidan trains the great race horse, Irish Eagle. A brilliant success on the European circuit, the three-year-old colt is now pointed to the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. But this will be no ordinary stakes race. Far more than mere prize money and prestige are at stake. From the vestry of a hillside church in an Irish village, a stately gentlemen's club in London, and the "social clubs" of Boston's Irish and Italian gangsters, blackmail, deception and fatal decisions are plotted and put in place. Then, late on a Saturday afternoon in August, as the horses thunder down the homestretch at fabled Saratoga, it becomes clear that relying on inside information can be a hazardous game.

Semi Finalist

Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.75 out of 10


Plot: The plot of this book is tight and well constructed. The pacing is fast and the storyline is compelling and interesting.

Prose: The prose is one of this book’s great strengths. The writing is smooth and clear. There is enough detail to paint vivid scenes, while the pacing is spot-on.

Originality: Although this book touches on familiar topics, it feels fresh and original. And, the story will resonate with readers because of the current threat of terrorism.

Character Development: The characters in this novel are vividly drawn. They are developed in such a way that readers will cheer for them, especially Aidan. The dialogue is near perfect.

Date Submitted: June 28, 2018

Kenny’s intriguing, occasionally moving thriller opens in 1998 New York City, with American journalist Bill Upton receiving the Metropolitan Peace Council’s Peace Medal for his “brilliant, persuasive writings” that have led Northern Ireland to the verge of genuine peace. In his acceptance speech, Upton shares the story about how “courage and sacrifice, when mixed with a bit of sleight of hand, can accomplish what most think impossible.” Flash back to 1980s Northern Ireland: a British sniper misses IRA leader Michael O’Shaughnessy and instead kills O’Shaughnessy’s son, Timmy, in the five-year-old’s bedroom. The bullet travels through a stuffed kangaroo, a Christmas present from the boy’s Australian uncle, Aidan McGuire, before exploding in Timmy’s “little heart.” Devastated by Timmy’s death, Aidan, a trainer for a record-breaking race horse, has an opportunity years later to help the IRA cause. His unique access to the animal gives him the idea for a scheme that can vastly increase the movement’s coffers. Readers will keep turning the pages to see how Aidan’s plan will connect with Upton’s speech. (BookLife)
Kirkus Reviews


Kenny details an Irish Republican Army plot set against the backdrop of the Travers Stakes in this crime thriller.

On a cold night in Derry, a British sniper lies in wait to end the life of Michael O’Shaugnessy, an IRA operative responsible for a recent deadly bombing attack in London. When the bullet meant for Michael kills his young son instead, the tragedy rocks his extended family. The boy’s aunt and uncle adopt distinctly different methods of dealing with their grief. Annie McGuire decides to join the IRA in the violent fight to end British rule in Northern Ireland. Her brother, Aidan, is a gentler man—a well-regarded trainer of thoroughbreds who believes that more violence won’t set the country right. As Annie sinks into the covert world of bombs and threats, Aidan trains Irish Eagle, a promising racehorse who takes the European circuit by storm. When the horse has the opportunity to run at the Travers Stakes in Saratoga Springs, Aidan finally sees an opportunity to settle old scores. “There is, quite simply, no way the colt can lose the Travers Stakes,” he explains to Annie. “That is, unless I decide the horse has an off day.” In a complex scheme involving a network of gangsters, jockeys, terrorists, and arms dealers, Aidan may do more than lose a race: he might just end a war. The plot moves forward at near breakneck speed—almost too fast, sometimes, at the expense of emotional investment—but Kenny is able to do a lot with a quick scene and a few lines of stylish dialogue. The highly fraught context of the Troubles does much to bolster what is ultimately a rather ridiculous premise, and memorable characters coupled with an ever complicating plot aid in the suspension of the reader’s disbelief. Is it a fantasy? Certainly. Yet there’s something that rings true (and inherently Irish) about placing so much emphasis on a horse race rather than on the literal Troubles at hand.

An efficient, if unlikely, thriller that keeps the reader engaged until the finish line.

the Barnstable Patriot


The Barnstable Patriot

January 9, 2015

Reviewed by Barbara Clark   



The Morning Line
by Tom Kenny
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Trade Paperback, 219 pp., $12.95 

In the prologue to local author Tom Kenny’s fine novel “The Morning Line,” an American syndicated columnist receives an award in the late 1990s for his articles that have illuminated both sides of the lethal, ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland and contributed to a quicker resolution of that bloody war. The old man takes the podium and relates a grand tale that forms the heart of the book.

It’s winter twilight in Erin Cove, near the city of Derry, Northern Ireland, circa 1980s, at the height of “The Troubles,” as those who lived through that terror-filled time in Ireland have called the era. A bullet directed from the rifle of a British Army sniper goes horribly wrong, killing a child and setting in motion a series of well-told, exciting events that will reverberate far beyond Erin Cove.

We’re quickly introduced to two of the young lad’s close relatives – his aunt, Annie, and uncle, Aidan, who have radically different approaches and reactions to the child’s death. The implacable, spirited Annie, who seeks revenge for her nephew’s death, carries out dangerous assignments for the Irish Republican Army. Aidan’s career as an expert and well-known trainer of thoroughbreds takes a more nuanced course as he hatches an idea that he hopes may help set a course toward a more peaceful solution of the longstanding conflict.

“Morning Line” has the air of a big fable – a con and double-con with colorful characters straight out of Damon Runyon, complete with arms dealers; a jockey hired to throw a race; Boston Mafiosos named Buzzy and Carmine; a bodyguard named No Toes; priests whose responsibilities take them far outside the confessional; and a prize 3-year-old stallion named Irish Eagle. The whole story, in fact, is a grand horse race, culminating in one called the Travers Stakes, run on a fabled oval track at Saratoga, New York.

The stage is set, the con begins, as the IRA flexes its muscle in America and prepares for a fix in the big-money race. And remember, as the plot unfolds, nothing may be quite as it seems.

Tell me about it! “The Morning Line” is well-conceived and creative, published independently but with none of the unfortunate connotations such books often bring to mind. It’s well edited, using real English spelling and grammar rules! The narrative is engaging, often tongue-in-cheek, as are its colorful characters, who are true to their time. It can be done! Kudos to Mr. Kenny for his well-produced indie title. The story will appeal to lovers of the sport of horse racing and to those who like a well-told tale, as well as to those who harbor a fondness or connection with the auld sod.