Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A last minute addition to my best of the year list

Stuart Neville's debut, the Ghosts of Belfast, is crazy good. It is the sort of book I kept nearby at all times, so that I can could read it when I found some spare minutes. It reminded me of first reading Dennis Lehane, although that is slightly unfair to Neville, as his debut is better than Lehane's. We are lucky indeed to have another crime novelist of this caliber.

The book's anti-hero is Gerry Fegan, a former IRA enforcer and murderer. Released from prison, he is going slowly mad from drink and from 12 ghosts that haunt him. His only way out is to listen to the ghosts and to kill the men that ordered or helped him to kill.

Neville's protagonist is nasty and so are the rest of his characters, it's no surprise that he considers James Ellroy to be the greatest living crime writer. The cruel mobster/terrorists of the IRA are now gussied up politicians, although they aren't afraid to dabble in crime to get a few more dollars. The British are manipulative monsters, willing to throw innocent after innocent into the maw in order to maintain their political objectives. Fegan gains our reluctant sympathy as he is the only one to recognize what he has done is wrong and to act on that understanding as well.

Neville could have written a simple, if exhilarating, revenge thriller, but he set his sights higher. The book pulls back the reality behind the ideas of nationalism and national security. The real bad guys of the book aren't the trigger pullers, although many are loathsome, but the people pulling the strings, who use happy concepts to justify the blood on their hands.

I can't wait for Neville's next book!


Paul Puglisi said...

This sounds like a cool book. I have just added it to my wishlist. Excellent.

Tripp said...

I hope you enjoy it, I certainly did.