• The Abstainer

  • By: Ian McGuire
  • Narrated by: Patrick Moy
  • Length: 8 hrs and 43 mins
  • 3.3 out of 5 stars (3 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A man hanging on by a thread. 

A city about to snap.

From the acclaimed author of The North Water comes an epic story of revenge and obsession.

Manchester, 1867

Two men, haunted by their pasts.

Driven by the need for justice.

Blood begets blood.

In a fight for life and legacy.

Stephen Doyle arrives in Manchester from New York. He is an Irish-American veteran of the Civil War and a member of the Fenians, a secret society intent on ending British rule in Ireland, by any means necessary. Now he has come to seek vengeance.

James O'Connor has fled grief and drink in Dublin for a sober start in Manchester as Head Constable. His mission is to discover and thwart the Fenians’ plans. When his long-lost nephew arrives on his doorstep, he never could have foreseen how this would imperil his fragile new life – or how his and Doyle's fates would come to be intertwined. 

The rebels will be hanged at dawn, and their brotherhood is already plotting revenge.
 

©2019 Ian McGuire (P)2020 Simon & Schuster UK

Critic Reviews

"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)

"Unforgettable.... McGuire's portrait of two men locked in a grisly, vengeful dance with each other is masterly." (The Times)

 "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." (Guardian)

What listeners say about The Abstainer

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  • pjcamera
  • 10-09-20

90%

Really enjoyed the book; right up to the penultimate chapter and then it just seemed to fade away.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Christopher Hegan
  • 12-05-21

Strange, raw and gripping. Brilliant.

It is not until the coda that we truly understand the picture of life and destiny searingly expounded by McGuire's unique narrative talent. The most unusual quality of the story is that the hero – a true hero in the classical meaning of the term – is a bit stupid, or perhaps just a little slow to find the right words, make the right decisions. James O'Connor is an Irish detective in Victorian Manchester, a man of sorrows, ridiculed and dismissed by his coarser and even stupider colleagues. He lets them force him into decisions which he knows will lead to catastrophe but, having the low status of the Irish without the faintest tincture of the gift of the gab that is so often their defence, he is caught up in Fenian plots and then wrongly blamed for them, a handy scapegoat. Too much suffering drives him into obsession and tragedy. Four stars for performance because Patrick Moy, superb with the Irish and American voices, makes a poor fist of the Mancunian and London accents, a small matter overall. I can't wait for the next work from the author of the even more accomplished The North Water. Both highly recommended.

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  • Daniel McFarlane
  • 11-12-21

Patrick Moy does an absolutely fantastic job

I really enjoyed this audiobook, it is an absolute treat. It's a great story, and I'm sure I'd have enjoyed reading the novel too, but Patrick Moy does an excellent job as narrator. Each character has a believable voice which adds depth to the characters and makes them more distinct beyond Irish versus British. As for the tale itself, if you're interested in the period, the struggles of the Irish as well as crime/thriller novels then I'm sure you'll favour this too.

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  • AdamGR
  • 09-29-20

Mancunians, Fenians and Yanks

I was looking forward so much to Ian MGuire's next book following "The North Water". It was a hard act to follow being one of my favourite novels. While I enjoyed this book and finished it relatively quickly thanks to excellent narration by Patrick Moy there were a few things that detracted slightly. The next section may contain spoilers.

Like his previous book there is a nasty, particularly cunning, psychopath but this time dressed up as a fanatic. The crucible that brings the bad man and good man together is the Irish struggle for independence rather than a whaling ship. The ending, although a different outcome, is very similar. Good and evil have their final reckoning following some events that felt contrived and somewhat implausible. I liked the way the ending was told through a third person witness, 8 years down the line. Ultimately, I could find no deep or hidden meaning in the story other than it was a journey filled with disappointment, despair and death. The characters were also not as memorable. The protagonist was a somewhat pathetic character who largely engineered his own downfall and his main enemy rather run of the mill as baddies go. Nothing like Drax from the first book who jumped off the page. Look forward to the next one.

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  • Michael Sweeney
  • 09-21-20

Interesting novel, disappointed by the performance

Set largely in Victorian Manchester, this is a stylish novel. And I am full of admiration for those appointed to read audiobooks - especially with regard to novels with many characters.

This performer is good on the Irish accents (of which there are many, even in Manchester). Though I was struck by how many of Manchester’s Irish community - almost all of them with Fenian sympathies - sounded like Ulstermen.

However the Manchester accents were pretty much uniformly nasal, thin and reedy. The Mancunians were pathetic sounding, as if the local police force was manned by the ancestors of Syd Lyttle and Don Estelle.

Also, the district of Hulme is pronounced as in HEWme not HULLme. Similarly Broughton is pronounced as BRAWton, not BROWton. The general lack of feel for matters Mancunian hampered my enjoyment.

But a good novel regardless, with a fine ending.

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  • Richard Hanlon
  • 03-15-21

A quirky history

Loved this rollicking story with an ending that questions faith and reality. Will recommend to those who love Irish history.