The Ghosts of Belfast aka The Twelve, from Stuart Neville. The party has been going on a good long while without me, too, because Neville's second novel, Collusion, has just been released in the UK and is slated for an October release here in the USA. And it isn't like the party didn't get loud -- praises and toasts were being sung all the way from The Irish Times to The New York Times to The Los Angeles Times, which went so far as to award this book the 2009 LA Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller. And now that I've read this book at last, I'm not at all surprised by any of it.
Oh, wait. Yes, I am surprised by one thing. The Mystery Writers of America failed to give so much as a nomination to this book. Oh, but... those are the Edgars they give out, right? Now I'm not surprised anymore. (Color me bitter.)
In this dark, gripping, gritty, riveting, compelling, pulse-pounding [insert other standard review adjectives here] novel, the Norn Iron peace is tentative. Wouldn't take much to undo it and drop the country right back into the recent troubles. Gerry Fegan, former hit man and deliverer of bombs for You Know Who, is out of prison and troubled by his dark deeds. To be specific, there are twelve ghosts, Gerry's victims, who won't let him sleep, who drive him to years of drink and finally back to the dark side, and dark deeds. But it's a sma' sma' world, and it doesn't take long for everyone to figure out what bad Gerry's been doing. Thing is, the politics of peace are just as complicated and shifting as the politics of terror, and deciding what's to be done with Gerry is a decision that can't stay made. Add in a beautiful blonde and her daughter what thinks the world of Gerry and all, and he'll turn this world of traitors and zealots, brutes and bigots, on its collective ear.
What, for me, is wonderful about Neville's book, is that he manages to make the tangled political situation easily understood and doesn't have to recite decades of Irish history to make it so. The author has created a thriller with great visuals and among those visuals are the hatred and fear and greed that have always underpinned the violence. In Gerry Fegan, the author has created a character at once sympathetic and vile.. The reader won't wish Gerry all the best, but you won't want to see him go down the dark side either. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
And if you would like to try some of Neville's short stories, for FREE, he's made six of them available in a single ebook download. Click here.