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True Crime Book Club - Past Titles: March 2023

Trigger Warning: Take a look through our previous titles from our True Crime Book Club.

"Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland" by Patrick Radden Keefe

  1. A saying at the time of the Troubles went, “If you’re not confused, you don’t know what’s going on." The times were certainly confusing: for those on the outside of the conflict, let alone those on the inside. Does Patrick Radden Keefe clear up the confusion for his readers? In what way has reading Say Nothing increased your understanding of Northern Ireland's decades-long struggle?
  2. Keefe has zeroed in on the murder of Jean McConville. Given the level of brutality and carnage that took place for so long, why might the author have used that particular episode as the opening of his book?
  3. In what way would you describe Say Nothing as a murder mystery?
  4. Which individuals do you feel more sympathy for than others? What about those individuals whose actions disturbed you? Despite all the carnage, are you able to find any humanity in those who committed acts of violence? Does it matter that they acted in service to a cause, one they believed in passionately?
  5. What is the significance of the book's title, "Say Nothing"? What are the ways that phrase resonates throughout the book?
  6. Had you heard about the Troubles before this book? If so, what did you know? 
    1. If not, did you find yourself researching to find out more?
  7. Would you read another book by this author? Why or why not?
  8. If you got the chance to ask the author of this book one question, what would it be?
  9. What do you think about the author’s research? Was it easy to see where the author got his or her information? Were the sources credible?

Jean McConville

  • In 1972, the I.R.A. abducted and “disappeared” Jean McConville, a mother of ten children, most of whom were teen-age or younger.
    • Her case became one of the most notorious unsolved murders of a long period of unrest in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles.
  • from Belfast, Northern Ireland, was kidnapped and murdered by the IRA and secretly buried in County Louth in the Republic of Ireland in 1972 after being accused by the IRA of passing information to British forces
  • In 1999, the IRA acknowledged that it had killed McConville and eight others
    • claimed she had been passing information about republicans to the British Army in exchange for money and that a transmitter had been found in her flat
  • She was a widowed mother of ten, the McConville killing was particularly controversial. Her body was not found until 2003, and the crime has not been solved.

The Troubles

The Troubles were a violent sectarian conflict from about 1968 to 1998 in Northern Ireland between the overwhelmingly Protestant unionists (loyalists), who desired the province to remain part of the United Kingdom, and the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic nationalists (republicans), who wanted Northern Ireland to become part of the Republic of Ireland. The other major players in the conflict were the British army, Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), and Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR; from 1992 called the Royal Irish Regiment), and their avowed purpose was to play a peacekeeping role, most prominently between the nationalist Irish Republican Army (IRA), which viewed the conflict as a guerrilla war for national independence, and the unionist paramilitary forces, which characterized the IRA’s aggression as terrorism. Marked by street fighting, sensational bombings, sniper attacks, roadblocks, and internment without trial, the confrontation had the characteristics of a civil war, notwithstanding its textbook categorization as a “low-intensity conflict.” Some 3,600 people were killed and more than 30,000 more were wounded before a peaceful solution, which involved the governments of both the United Kingdom and Ireland, was effectively reached in 1998, leading to a power-sharing arrangement in the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont (Britannica).

  • grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts
  • went to college at Columbia
    • masters degrees from Cambridge University and the London School of Economics, and a law degree from Yale
  • lives in New York
  • an award-winning staff writer at The New Yorker magazine 
  • author of the New York Times bestsellers Empire of Pain and Say Nothing
    • nonfiction books: The Snakehead and Chatter
    • most recent book is Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks
  • the writer and host of WIND OF CHANGE, an 8-part podcast series, which investigates the strange convergence of espionage and heavy metal music during the Cold War, and was named the #1 podcast of 2020 by The Guardian
  • Limited series optioned by FX (no date of publication as of now)

All images taken by Kristen Barenthaler (2018 in Belfast, Northern Ireland & Derry, Ireland/Londonderry, Northern Ireland)


















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