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24 May 2010
Review: THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST, Stuart Neville
Published in the UK by Harvill Secker Random House as THE TWELVE
Maybe if he had one more drink they'd leave him alone. Gerry Fegan told himself that lie before every swallow..... No. They were still there, still staring. Twelve of them if he counted the baby in its mother's arms.
Fegan is still a respected man in West Belfast, despite the drink. His constant companions wherever he goes though are the shadows of those he killed: five soldiers, a policeman, two Loyalists, and four civilians who'd been in the wrong place at the wrong time. The ghosts are demanding that he pay his debts. Gerry Fegan knows that means killing those whose orders he had been carrying out.
The first is relatively easy: Mick McKenna, once an IRA fighter but now a politician. Down at the old shipyard, no CCTV, no people, just two bullets. After that there's only 11 shadows.
What Gerry Fegan can't take into account is Marie McKenna, Mick's niece, and her young daughter Ellen. And between them they threaten to bring Gerry's plans unravelled.
The structure of THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST is an interesting one. As Gerry works to rid himself of the ghosts, Stuart Neville explores the fragile peace that's broken out in the last decade or so in Northern Ireland. Corruption, violence, and guilt simmer just below the surface. The Minister of State for Northern Ireland and the Chief Constable are fearful that McKenna's assassination will cause an outbreak of a war of retribution.
THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST is Stuart Neville's debut novel and won the Mystery/Thriller category of the 2010 Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
It is one of a literal wave of Irish noir thrillers.
My rating 4.7 despite the fact that it is a little more noir than my usual reading fare.
Other reviews to check:
International Noir Fiction
Detectives Beyond Borders
Crime Always Pays
Visit the author's website: read an excerpt, watch a trailer, read some reviews.