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Ratlines Paperback – September 17, 2013

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime (September 17, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616953020
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616953027
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #291,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Q&A with Stuart Neville and James R. Benn

Q. In one sentence, tell us what Ratlines is all about.

A. Ratlines is about Dublin intelligence officer Albert Ryan, tasked with finding the killers of several Nazis granted sanctuary in Ireland after World War II.

Q. Ratlines is your first foray into historical fiction. What was the different about writing a novel so heavily based on historical characters? Did your research or writing process vary from earlier works?

A. The research process was entirely different for Ratlines than for any other novel I’ve written. With a present-day thriller, your research focuses on how things work; with a historical thriller, your focus is on how things were. For example, in my previous books, if I wanted to know how many rounds a Glock 17 can hold, I just downloaded the user manual from the manufacturer’s website. Or if I need to get the layout of a part of town right, I can use Google Maps.

Not so with Ratlines. Maps are of limited use because the layout of any given street can change, buildings can be renamed, and so on. There are events to get straight – for example, the Irish bus drivers’ strike of 1963 is referenced in the book, as is JFK’s visit to Ireland – but there are also societal issues to think about. For those, it really helped to talk to people who were around Dublin in the early 60s. For example, I described the book’s leading lady as wearing an off-the-shoulder dress in an early draft. Two beta readers pulled me up on that – such a dress would have been scandalous in 60s Ireland. Now she keeps her shoulders covered.

Q. Irish Justice Minister Charles Haughey is a real-life character who appears in Ratlines. What should American readers, and others who have not heard of him, know about Charles Haughey? It seems that Irish and English readers have a reaction to the name. Is there a comparable American politician that might help us Yanks put him in context?

A. Charles Haughey is probably the most controversial figure in 20th Century Irish politics. He was a charismatic man, loved by many, but also hated. He was Irish prime minister three times, but ended his career in scandal when decades of corruption were exposed. I guess the nearest equivalent in American politics I can think of is a cross between Richard Nixon and Joseph P Kennedy Sr.

Haughey was Minister for Justice at the time Ratlines is set, and as such was responsible for asylum seekers, including the Nazis and Axis collaborators who were in Ireland at the time. He’s also known to have had an strange love-hate relationship with the British. He had the hatred of Britain that one would expect from an ardent Irish republican like Haughey, but he also seemed to regard himself as part of some imagined aristocracy, despite his lowly background, and identified himself with the English gentry.

Q. Otto Skorzeny—a real-life scar-faced Nazi commando—also has a major role. I wonder if this larger-than-life character ever threatened to take over the story. He's a guy you couldn't make up.

A. Otto Skorzeny was a real-life Bond villain, and truly larger than life. He could very easily have been cartoonish, and I couldn’t help but play up some of his more theatrical quirks, including a fencing duel with the novel’s protagonist. He was really a gift of a character.

Q. Breton nationalists in Ireland? Who knew? Célestin Lainé is another remarkable, if unbalanced, real-life character. How did you find out about him, and are there still such guys living out their old age in Ireland?

A. I learned about Lainé initially through a documentary called Ireland’s Nazis by journalist Cathal O’Shannon. I dug further into him through Daniel Leach’s book, Fugitive Ireland, also about Nazis and Axis collaborators harboured by the Irish state. The Célestin Lainé in Ratlines is only very loosely based on the real life figure. When Lainé came to Ireland, he lived under his Breton name, Neven Henaff, but because the character in my book only really shares his history, I kept his original name. Similarly, the character of Catherine Beauchamp is based on Breton nationalist Francene Rozec, but only loosely, so I used one of her pen names for the book.

Q. Your previous books feature Jack Lennon, a Catholic detective in Northern Ireland. Ratlines features Albert Ryan, a Protestant cop in Dublin. What draws you to the outsider as main character?

A. That’s a difficult question, and it might take a psychologist to answer it properly! I guess one theory might be that the reader is always an outsider to the world they’re reading about, so it helps if the character whose eyes they’re seeing through is also an outsider. It allows them to move through the story in a more dispassionate way, with a more objective view. I’m not sure if that’s really true, though…

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Students of history and readers of historical-crime fiction are used to finding Nazis in the unlikeliest places—but Ireland? That’s one refuge many of us may have missed. It’s 1963, and Lieutenant Albert Ryan of the Directorate of Intelligence is tasked with solving a string of murders. The dead were all Nazis and collaborators, and on the eve of JFK’s presidential visit, their identities could prove embarrassing to his hosts. The investigation proves a minefield, with Ryan unsure whether he’s reporting to the minister of justice, Charles Haughey, or Otto Skorzeny, a renowned Nazi commando now living quite comfortably on the Emerald Isle (Slorzeny obviously has a personal interest in the case). Neville writes wonderfully, setting the scene in precise, economical prose; pitting well-defined, historically inspired characters in opposition to each other; and tangling the plotlines tantalizingly. If he goes astray at all, it’s after a gruesome plot turn that renders Ryan helpless, with nearly all of his subsequent action passive or reactive. With a character this strong, we want to see him fight to the finish. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Given the acclaim for Neville’s prize-winning Belfast Trilogy (Stolen Souls, 2011; Collusion, 2010; The Ghosts of Belfast, 2009), Soho is betting big on this one with a $150,000 marketing campaign, a national tour, and big pushes at BEA and ALA. --Keir Graff --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Stuart Neville's debut novel, THE TWELVE (published in the USA as THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST), won the Mystery/Thriller category of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was picked as one of the top crime novels of 2009 by both the New York Times and the LA Times. He has been shortlisted for various awards, including the Barry, Macavity, Dilys awards, as well as the Irish Book Awards Crime Novel of the Year. He has since published three critically acclaimed sequels, COLLUSION, STOLEN SOULS and THE FINAL SILENCE.

His first four novels have each been longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and RATLINES was shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.

Stuart's novels have been translated into various languages, including German, Japanese, Polish, Swedish, Greek and more. The French edition of The Ghosts of Belfast, Les Fantômes de Belfast, won Le Prix Mystère de la Critique du Meilleur Roman Étranger and Grand Prix du Roman Noir Étranger.

His fourth novel, RATLINES, about Nazis harboured by the Irish state following WWII is currently in development for television.

Customer Reviews

Too much violence for my taste.
Neville is a master plotter, and the murky historical trail that forms the book's subject matter provides him with some very pliable material with which to work.
Well developed characters and some interesting history.
Claire Mooers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Stuart Neville's "Ratlines" opens in 1963, shortly before President John F. Kennedy is scheduled to visit Ireland. The book's premise may surprise the uninitiated: Nazi thugs found safe haven in Ireland after World War II. Among them was Otto Skorzeny, the infamous scar-faced commando and SS man who had previously enjoyed the hospitality of Franco in Spain and Peron in Argentina (it is even rumored that Skorzeny had an affair with Eva Peron). In 1959, Skorzeny purchased Martinstown House, a shooting lodge and farm in County Kildare.

Irish officials are disconcerted to learn that someone is targeting former Nazis living in their country. If news of the murders were to become widely known, it would embarrass a government whose leaders welcomed anti-Semitic killers with open arms while "the bureaucrats at the Department of Justice did their best to block Jewish refugees [from] entering Ireland before and after the war." What did Irish nationalists have in common with Hitler's henchmen? Many Irishmen hated the British; the Germans promised that after England was defeated, Ireland would be free of her British rulers.

The novel's hero, thirty-six year old Lieutenant Albert Ryan, works for the Directorate of Intelligence. At the behest of his boss, Ryan meets with Justice Charles J. Haughey, who orders him to identify and track down the perpetrators before they execute their main target, Otto Skorzeny. Ryan is conflicted. Why should he cooperate with Haughey in order to save the skin of a vicious war criminal? "Ratlines" refers to a secret network that served as an escape route for fleeing Germans after Hitler's defeat. Skorzeny is knowledgeable about the ratlines and has become filthy rich by siphoning off a portion of the money set aside to help his former compatriots.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Scott E. High VINE VOICE on December 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an interesting story loosely based on the historical fact that Ireland became a sanctuary for German war criminals after World War II. Actually it became more of a temporary sanctuary for many of them, allowing them a way station to plot out and pay for their further escape and disappearance into the Americas. The relative simplicity of the process was threatened by various interested parties involving themselves for their own (and often conflicting) reasons. These parties included blustering members of the Irish Government, a Nazi "war hero", a paramilitary group, a lowly government agent, and the Mossad.

Aside from the historical interest, I was mainly drawn in by the author's character development of the imperfect hero, Albert Ryan, the afore-mentioned Irish government agent. He was not portrayed as another James Bond but rather as a seasoned and experienced combat veteran who made the lateral move into government service and found himself physically challenged and not quite as smart as his oponents who played the game at a higher level. When was the last time you read about the hero getting the crap kicked out of him? Or being captured and tortured?

All that being said, I was disappointed that there was no true conclusion to the story. In fact the ending appeared to set up another book to follow that would continue the story of our hero again facing the "de-Nazified" Nazi. Looking over the author's bibliography, it appears that he has written a previous series, so this would not be a surprise.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jim Tenuto VINE VOICE on November 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Add another writer to the pantheon of Celtic Noir. Stuart Neville belongs in the same roll call as Benjamin Black and the fine Quirke series, set in 1950s Dublin, the late Bartholomew Gill's masterful McGarr mysteries, and Adrian McKinty's promising new series set in 1980s Belfast. Lump in the usual suspects from Scotland (Rankin, MacBride, Mina, et.al.) and you'll understand what a fine book RATLINES truly is.

Lieutenant Albert Ryan of the Directorate of Intelligence is seconded to Minister for Justice Charles Haughey (an historical character as are many others) to look into a series of murders of foreign nationals. All are tied in some form to Colonel Otto Skorzeny, the commando hero of Nazi Germany who counted, among his many exploits, the rescue of Mussolini in 1943.

Ryan is an institutional man. A non-com who served in World War II in the British Army, despite the neutrality of the Republic of Ireland. When he finally leaves the Army in the 1950s he is out of sorts, until he is recruited by the Directorate of Intelligence. He continues to live a barracks existence, living meanly, and celibate. He is phlegmatic, practical, ruthless, and has no fear of bucking the status quo.

If torture leaves you a bit squeamish then you would do well to avoid the book. The violence in this noir novel is not gratuitous though it is graphic. Celestine Laine, a Breton who threw in with the Nazis during the war in anticipation of true independence for Brittany, is a churlish satellite in Skorzeny's orbit, and a master of "enhanced interrogation."

Ryan's investigation takes him into the world of Skorzeny, a gentleman farmer on 200 hundred acres. Ireland has become home to many of his former Nazi cohort.
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