The Ghosts of Belfast

The Ghosts of Belfast, by Stuart Neville, is a descent into revenge hades. Gerry Fegan, a former IRA killer literally sees ghosts of his victims. It is the appearance of these ghosts that slowly drives him to confront his past and do something about it. Slow by slow, Fegan seeks out those who gave him orders or facilited death. It is this path that forms the spine of the story. Along the way, Fegan meets Marie and her daughter Ellen, who are also trapped in the cycle of revenge exacted by the various factions in Northern Ireland’s troubles. Marie has her own hidden past, but she’s living up to it, going straight in her own way, defying the prejudices of the past by living boldly in the present. Then there is Campbell, the British Government undercover agent pursuing Fegan, another character with more baggage than can fit on the plane. These three and more are on a collision course with misery that unfolds as paybacks become ever more costly.

There is a level of brutality in The Ghosts of Belfast that may be appropriate to the subject matter. At the same time, I hoped for a bit more sophistication such as a protagonist trying to clear his conscience using more than a gun and his heart on a sleeve. The relationship between Fegan and Marie showed great promise at the beginning but never gained traction through the story to a level that would have made it more than a damsel in distress plot point. What Neville does best is to expose the double-triple crosses of the guerilla life and the consequences these shabby alliances create. He portrays the thugs for what they are: less than intelligent men bent on using their fists for no good reason at all. So it is that in this portrayal of a Northern Ireland subculture nobody wins, everyone pays, and corruption rules the day. This book will best be enjoyed by those who like a slow-burn slug fest complete with brawls, trick shots, and death defying duality.

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Published in: on April 23, 2011 at 11:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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