From the widely acclaimed author of The North Water comes an epic story of revenge and obsession set in 19th century Manchester
‘The Abstainer is truly terrific – a can’t-put-down book. It’s no less than a tight ‘n spare ‘n suspense-filled noir novel, masterfully set in 1860s Britain and America. And like all superb historical novels, it seems as modern and as contemporary as this morning.’ Richard Ford
The rebels will be hanged at dawn, and their brotherhood is already plotting revenge.
Manchester, 1867: Stephen Doyle, an Irish-American veteran of the Civil War, arrives from New York with a thirst for blood. He has joined the Fenians, a secret society intent on ending British rule in Ireland by any means necessary. Head Constable James O’Connor has fled grief and drink in Dublin for a sober start in Manchester. His job is to discover and thwart the Fenians’ plans whatever they might be. When a long-lost nephew returns from America and arrives on O’Connor’s doorstep looking for work, he cannot foresee the way his fragile new life will be imperilled – and how his and Doyle’s fates will be intertwined.
In this propulsive tale of the underground war for Irish independence, master storyteller Ian McGuire once again transports readers to a time when blood begot blood. Moving from the dirt and uproar of industrial Manchester to the quiet hills of Pennsylvania, The Abstainer is a searing novel in which two men, haunted by their pasts and driven forward by the need for justice and retribution, must fight for life and legacy.
"The book is written with the vividness and economy of a screenplay, unfolding through a series of sharply observed scenes full of cliffhangers, misdirection and reverses. Its lovely, rhythmic prose evokes the stinks of the Victorian city, its factories, rat-baiting arenas and slaughterhouses. […] McGuire does everything well: evoking the pungent atmosphere of a teeming industrial city, recreating the period in a way that resonates with our own time without seeming preachy, and writing sharp dialogue that crackles with subtext" - The Guardian
"THE ABSTAINER is truly terrific – a can't-put-down book. It's no less than a tight 'n spare 'n suspense-filled noir novel, masterfully set in 1860s Britain and America. And like all superb historical novels, it seems as modern and as contemporary as this morning" - Richard Ford
"The blend of politics, personal tragedy and revenge is moreishly compelling. The book’s powerful setting is almost a character in itself... The physical world that [McGuire] imagines assails the reader’s senses: the stink of a tannery, the clangour of factory bells and the way O’Connor’s grief drives him to a ruthlessness beyond his nature" - The Economist
"McGuire has crafted a riveting tale of violence and retribution against the backdrop of the 1860s Fenian rebellion – precursor to the Troubles and one of those rich historical incidents you learn about and wonder, Why didn't I know about this before? He has a keen sense of how to mix precise local details with transcendent global themes" - Michael Punke
"McGuire is always a pleasure – and horror – to read, and THE ABSTAINER is without question a very fine book in and of itself: darkly compelling, with its polished prose and snappy dialogue" - Times Literary Supplement
"Taut and tense. In lean, atmospheric prose, McGuire unspools a bloody tale of revenge and retribution" - Daily Mail
"Excellent… McGuire’s portrait of two men locked in a grisly, vengeful dance with each other is masterly" - The Times
“Ian McGuire is fast emerging as Britain’s answer to Cormac McCarthy. [He] expertly balances existential themes of biblical proportions with a lean cat-and-mouse thriller" - Metro
“A terrific, atmospheric historical novel" - Independent
"A powerful, gripping tale." - The Sunday Times
“A powerful, gripping tale that follows a group of Irish republicans in 1867, exploring conflicting ideas of justice and loyalty.” - The Times, "The best paperbacks of 2021”