Tuesday, June 21, 2011

{read: Irish thriller} The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville

One of my favorite authors is Tana French (In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place), an Irish writer who writes character-driven mystery/thrillers about different members of the Dublin Murder Squad. The Ghosts of Belfast is billed as one of the best new Irish novels, and I had high hopes. Although it was more plot-driven than French's books and didn't remind me of her writing at all, I really enjoyed this and had trouble putting it down. Although the first few chapters were a little bit choppy, the character development and plot ran smoothly after that even though I sometimes had trouble keeping track of the minor characters and the struggles between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Neville throws in a pinch of romantic interest but keeps it real and avoids the obligatory sex scene between the two love interests (Gerry and Marie).

Gerry Fegan, the main character, is a "hard man" - translation: IRA assassin - in Northern Ireland. He killed 12 people whose ghosts follow him around and won't give him any rest. The only way to make them go away is to kill the person (other than himself) responsible for their deaths. But as he embarks upon this path, he has to deal with the mysterious pull he feels toward Marie McKenna, whose family has ostractized her because she took an RUC officer as a lover. Along the way, his former comrades learn that he's the one responsible for the new spate of deaths. It all comes to a head at dogfighting ring out in the country, and Gerry has to figure out how to balance the wishes of the ghosts against the struggle to keep himself, Marie, and her young daughter alive. Neville has a sequel out, and I can't wait to read it.

The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville (Soho Crime, 2009)
My rating: 5 stars

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