Maybe if he had one more drink they'd leave him alone. Gerry Fegan told himself that lie before every swallow. He chased the whiskey's burm with a cool black mouthful of Giuinness and placed the glass back on the table. Look up and they'll be gone, he thought.
No. They were still there, still staring. Twelve of them if he counted the baby in its mother's arms.
Gerry Fegan is a killer for the cause. But now that peace has descended on Belfast, the ghosts of those he has murdered haunt him night - and day: a schoolboy, a butcher, a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, a mother and her infant, and seven others. To appease them, Fegan will kill the colleagues who gave him his orders. He wants peace, and a new life, and thinks he may find some happiness with Marie McKenna and her young daughter. Cast out of the clan for once loving an RUC officer, she becomes the unwitting lure for the killer who stalks Fegan.
Stuart Neville's debut novel THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST (SOHO Press) is a fast-paced cross-breed of a story, blending crime fiction and horror with literary strokes. To sweeten the deal, the author provides a masterful and rare look at post-Troubles Northern Ireland, making the politics almost a character itself. Here, new-world consumerism has blunted the ferocity of past religious and secular differences, but not the drive for power.
Unlike most other stories in this genre, Neville provides a complex protagonist, a murderer riddled with remorse who hides himself in dark pints of Guinness and in the refurbishing of an old guitar. Yet Fegan has no qualms killing his former colleagues and friends. Fegan is deplorable, but the author manages to render him with sufficient sympathy to make me root for him to the end.
I'll confess my biases and conflicts-of-interest: THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST is not my typical reading fare. But I've followed the author over the past three years in his (well-deserved) quest for publication, and frankly, this is a damn good read. The writing is sparse and original, the characters unique, the political landscape compelling, and the plot intricate and well-paced. Readers who are not aware of the politics of this part of the world may need to read carefully to grasp the intricacies and nuances of the story.
The Press... THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST is published by SOHO PRESS, a house I've covered before. Many conside their crime portfolio to be one of the most eclectic and sophisticated in the business.
The Author... STUART NEVILLE is a partner in a multimedia design business in Armagh, Northern Ireland. This is the first novel in a series (YAY!). Read about his journey to published author HERE.