Monday, February 6, 2012

Review: The Ghosts of Belfast

The Ghosts of Belfast, by Stuart Neville, is a smart, fast-paced, crime thriller.  If you are a fan of the genre, I highly recommend it.

The story is set in post-conflict Northern Ireland.  The main character -- I hesitate to say "hero" -- is Gerry, Fegan, a former killer for the IRA.  Since the ceasefire, he has drowned himself in alcohol, fighting off the memories of those who he killed.  Finally, he determines that the only way to exorcise his demons is to take vengeance on behalf of his victims, hunting down and killing those who ordered their deaths.  His wave of killings, which includes high-profile targets, threatens to derail the entire peace process.  As a result, just about everyone wants him dead.

James Ellroy called The Ghosts of Belfast "The best first novel I've read in years ... It's a flat out terror trip."  While Neville's writing is much more straightforward than Ellroy, the two have a lot in common.  Much like Ellroy, Neville plunges straight into the action.  If you're not familiar with the politics and the peace process in Northern Ireland, you may find yourself at times working to keep up.  And in the end, nobody comes out looking good.

The Ghosts of Belfast was published in the United States in 2010 by SoHo Press, one of my favorite small publishers.  It was previously published in the U.K. in 2009, with the title The Twelve

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