Anatomy of a Killing: Restrained examination of the IRA murder of an RUC officer

Book review: Ian Cobain carefully dissects the 1978 murder of Millar McAllister

A few weeks ago on Twitter, Colin Barrett, the fiction writer from Mayo, struck a nerve when he wrote: “Massive respect to everyone still experiencing time as a linear sequence.” Elsewhere on the social media platform, Northern Ireland’s past is made present on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Atrocities and trauma are remembered, often solemnly, but often to score digital points in the never-ending litigation of the conflict.

Just a decade ago it was harder to recover specific details of specific killings beyond the most notorious acts. Those acts where placenames are instantly associated with carnage – La Mon, Greysteel, Kingsmill, for example. But many individual killings, not least killings of individual members of the security services, tended to disappear into statistics to which we are desensitised. There is now a Twitter feed named “On this day the IRA” which recounts, with the aid of archive news images, the details of Provisional IRA activities on most days of the year.

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