Thursday, April 25, 2013

THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST by Stuart Neville








“You used people like me. You told us we didn’t have a future. You said we had to fight for it. You put the guns in our hands and sent us off to do your killing for you.” 

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Talk about a surfeit of riches! Two excellent books in a row. The first was The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean. (That book was not a mystery.)

The second was Stuart Neville’s The Ghosts of Belfast.

I got both books as e-book specials at Amazon.

In Neville’s The Ghosts of Belfast, former IRA assassin Gerry Fegan finds himself haunted by the ghosts of those he murdered.

The ghosts demand that he now kill the politicians who ordered their demise.

Fegan works through the list coldly and with his usual good luck in killing. Then he falls in love.

Marie McKenna is an outcast, a traitor to the cause. She married a Catholic cop, an officer of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Her husband abandoned her, leaving her with a little daughter.

Marie has a history that adds to Jerry’s troubles. As the killing continues, Jerry, Marie, and the child find themselves on the run.

The story goes from there. The book involves, not just brutal murders, but hard-to-read explicit scenes of things like dogfights.

In the end, as Fegan kills each politician, that person’s vengeful ghost goes away. But finally, the reader knows the last ghost will demand that Gerry Fegan kill himself, commit suicide.

The ending of the book provides one of the most interesting twists of all.

Neville fills The Ghosts of Belfast with truth and insight.

“I’m telling you, the media’s a better weapon than Semtex ever was,” Fegan’s handler tells him one time.

And another time, the story says, “The politicians were too busy pandering to the bigotry of their constituents to solve the issues . . . .”

How much does that sound like today? Except more violent.

In times of change, the old guard doesn’t go merrily away. They hang on. They try to adjust, but they are as corrupt and violent as always.

This time, the old guard threatens the peace process, a process involving the British, the Loyalists, and the Nationalists.

Gerry Fegan’s ghosts (with their need for vengeance) change all that. Gerry Fegan’s ghost instructs him to murder one whole faction of the old guard.

But all this makes this book seem too tame. This book is violent, filled with love and hate. It is one of those books you don’t forget.

I’ve had a surfeit of riches lately. And I’m thankful.

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