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The Ghosts of Belfast (The Belfast Novels) Hardcover – October 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. With this stunning debut, Neville joins a select group of Irish writers, including Ken Bruen, Declan Hughes and Adrian McKinty, who have reinvigorated the noir tradition with a Celtic edge. Gerry Fegan, a former IRA hit man haunted by the ghosts of the 12 people he killed, realizes the only way these specters will give him rest is to systematically assassinate the men who gave him his orders. Though those in the militant IRA underworld have written him off as a babbling drunk and a liability to the movement, they take note when their members start turning up dead. Meanwhile, Fegan is attracted to Marie McKenna, a relative of one of the newly slain men and a pariah to the Republicans. Can Fegan satisfy his demons and redeem himself, or will the ghosts of Belfast consume him first? This is not only an action-packed, visceral thriller but also an insightful insider's glimpse into the complex political machinations and networks that maintain the uneasy truce in Northern Ireland. (Oct.)
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“Not only one of the finest thriller debuts of the last ten years, but also one of the best Irish novels, in any genre, of recent times.”
John Connolly

“Neville’s novel is a coldly lucid assessment of the fragility of the Irish peace … a rare example of legitimate noir fiction.”
The New York Times Book Review

"Perfect for summer—especially if you want to be reminded of what a blessing it is to live in relatively peaceful times."

“The best first novel I’ve read in years…. It’s a flat-out terror trip.”
James Ellroy

The Ghosts of Belfast is a smart and atmospheric thriller about the many causes served and corrupt pockets lined courtesy of sectarian hatred.”
Maureen Corrigan,

"Stuart Neville is Ireland's answer to Henning Mankell."
Ken Bruen

“Stuart Neville's tightly wound, emotionally resonant account of an ex-IRA hit man's struggle to conquer his past, displays an acute understanding of the true state of Northern Ireland, still under the thumb of decades of violence and terrorism.”
Los Angeles Times

“Both a fine novel and a gripping thriller: truly this is a magnificent debut.”
Ruth Dudley Edwards, author of Ten Lords-A-Leaping

“Stuart Neville goes to the heart of the perversity of paramilitarism.”
Sean O’Callaghan, author of The Informer

“An astonishing debut. Brilliantly conceived, masterfully written, Stuart Neville’s The Ghosts of Belfast is both a heart-pounding thriller and a stunning examination of responsibility and revenge. He is going to be a major new voice in suspense fiction.”
Jeff Abbott

“Stuart Neville will go far as a writer . . . It’s a wonderful novel, brave and fierce and true to its place and time. I sincerely hope it sells a million copies.”

"Stuart Neville delivers an inspired, gritty view of how violence’s aftermath lasts for years and the toll it takes on each person involved. The Ghosts of Belfast also insightfully delves into Irish politics, the uneasy truce in Northern Ireland, redemption, guilt and responsibility.”
Oline Cogdill, Mystery Scene

“Stuart Neville belongs to a younger generation of writers for whom the region's darkest years are history—but that history endures, as his first novel, The Ghosts of Belfast, shockingly demonstrates.... In scene after gruesome scene, Neville attempts to persuade us that this time around, with this repentant murderer, the killing is different.”
—Washington Post

“Neville’s debut is as unrelenting as Fegan’s ghosts, pulling no punches as it describes the brutality of Ireland’s 'troubles' and the crime that has followed, as violent men find new outlets for their skills. Sharp prose places readers in this pitiless place and holds them there. Harsh and unrelenting crime fiction, masterfully done.”
Kirkus Reviews, STARRED Review

“[A] stunning debut.... This is not only an action-packed, visceral thriller but also an insightful insider’s glimpse into the complex political machinations and networks that maintain the uneasy truce in Northern Ireland.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“In this well-crafted and intriguing series debut, Neville evokes the terrors of living in Belfast during 'the Troubles' and manages to makes Fegan, a murderer many times over, a sympathetic character…The buzz around this novel is well deserved and readers will be anticipating the next book in the series.”
Library Journal, Starred Review

“Explosive and absorbing ... The Ghosts of Belfast is an intense meditation on obligation, necessity, and war. Within Stuart Neville’s rich vocabulary, complacency is not a word to be found.”
Sacramento News and Review

The Ghosts of Belfast is a tale of revenge and reconciliation shrouded in a bloody original crime thriller.... Fierce dialogue and the stark political realities of a Northern Ireland recovering from the ‘Troubles’ drive this novel. It's not difficult to read this brilliant book as an allegory for a brutal past that must be confronted so the present ‘can be clean.’”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“In his stunning debut, Stuart Neville delivers an inspired, gritty view of how violence's aftermath lasts for years and the toll it takes on each person involved. The Ghosts of Belfast also insightfully delves into Irish politics, the uneasy truce in Northern Ireland, redemption, guilt and responsibility ... Neville delivers an emotionally packed novel that is both empathetic and savage. Neville never makes Gerry's visions of ghosts seem trite or silly. Like his countryman, John Connolly, Neville keeps the supernatural aspects believable ... The Ghosts of Belfast is a haunting debut.”
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“If you by chance have never read Stuart Neville’s Belfast Trilogy, it’s time to redeem yourself.”
Grift Magazine

“A brilliant thriller: unbearably tense, stomach churningly frightening … a future classic of its time.”
The Observer

“Stuart Neville's blistering debut thriller is a walk on the wild side of post-conflict Northern Ireland that brilliantly exposes the suffering still lurking beneath the surface of reconciliation and the hypocrisies that sustain the peace.”
Metro (UK)

“Neville has the talent to believably blend the tropes of the crime novel and those of a horror, in the process creating a page-turning thriller akin to a collaboration between John Connolly and Stephen King.”
Sunday Independent (Ireland)

“A gripping, original thriller."
Sunday Times

“[Neville] is … uniquely, tragically equipped to be able to think through complex issues of justice and mercy.”
Irish Times



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Product Details

  • Series: The Belfast Novels (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime; First Edition edition (October 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569476004
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569476000
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (277 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #929,287 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Good story and very well written.
Robin L. Powell
This is one of those books that you want to keep reading until you're finished and then you're disappointed when it's over because you like it so much.
Seattle Sue
Neville's debut novel gives us insight into the religious and political strife that has plagued Northern Ireland.
John O. Raab

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Gus Gonzales III on August 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover
THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST, the first novel by young master wordsmith Stuart Neville, is by turns bleak, gut wrenching and tense. Haunted by the spectres of the twelve victims whose blood he has on his mortal soul, ex-IRA hitman Gerry Fegan must appease them by murdering the men who ordered their deaths. Nothing less will suffice. The fallout from Fegan's bloody expiations threaten to disrupt a fragile country barely on the mend.

THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST breathes with you - it's unnervingly vivid and merciless, sparing you nothing of ex-IRA hitman Gerry Fegan's burden of pain, guilt and weariness. Page by page, you feel Fegan's struggle with his past colleagues and his own heart strain his very sanity.

Neville has an instinctive sense-of-place in his writing that hearkens back not only to Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man but also to the writings of legendary Texas writers Rolando Hinojosa-Smith and Cormac McCarthy. Having never spent any time in Ireland, I not only saw and heard Armagh and Belfast, I felt, deep in the marrow of my bones, those cities' war-fatigue, wariness and fear of plunging back towards the black abyss of loathing and violence; I chafed at the hot hate festering within those for whom the past is an ever-present and unending prison of the mind and heart, even while the younger generations move past them towards hopeful futures, seemingly oblivious to past bloodshed, knowing nothing of the shudders of sudden bomb blasts.

Make no mistake, THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST surpasses its genre. It is a truly stunning debut wrought by a young master of rare talent, insight and truth. No one gets away clean here, including Fegan. I've cut my teeth on the best published works of writers like James Ellroy and Don DeLillo. I have every confidence that young Mr.
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60 of 67 people found the following review helpful By maskirovka VINE VOICE on December 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A lot of what the author, Neville, writes in "Ghosts of Belfast" rings very true to me. I'm not a native of Northern Ireland (or the "North of Ireland," "Ulster," "the Six Counties," or "the Province") but I have read a lot about the violence there that seems to have mostly wound down. I've also been there multiple times, and while I certainly didn't hobnob with paramilitaries, I met at least one former one and I suspect met a few others whose status I didn't know. I've also visited the Maze Prison --to interview someone for a book I wrote about an incident that took place a looong time ago.

So I'm not a naif when it comes to Belfast and the IRA. A lot of this book is brilliant...the notion of an IRA man being haunted by the ghosts of those he killed has almost Shakespearian overtones to it. The plot crackles with energy and the dialogue rings true (at least to this American).

But the book has one flaw that I found myself getting increasingly annoyed about as it approached its conclusion. It depicts all of the IRA men (or shall we say "former IRA men") as weak, cowardly, corrupt, psychotic, or sell-outs. One threatens to kill a woman and a little girl to save his life. Another favors the brutal "sport" of dog-fighting.

I'm not a fan of the IRA. I know full well that that organization committed some appalling crimes and killed a lot of innocent civilians. Moreover, it's undeniable that the IRA --pretty much like any clandestine organization that engages in violence-- had its fair share of corrupt, weak, cowardly, psychotic, or treacherous members.

But let's face it...
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth A. White on April 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"All I wanted was some peace. I just wanted to sleep." - Gerry Fegan

Set in Belfast in the aftermath of Northern Ireland's Troubles, The Ghosts of Belfast introduces us to ex-con Gerry Fegan. Treated by the locals as a hero for his activities as a "hard man" during the Troubles, activities that got him sent to prison for twelve years, Fegan just wants to leave his past in the past and live out his life in peace. That, unfortunately, isn't going to happen.

The guilt of his own conscience weighs heavily enough upon him, but that is not the only burden Fegan has to bear. Shortly before his release from prison Fegan began getting visits. Not from friends or family, but from the ghosts of the twelve people he killed during the Troubles. Sometimes only one or two at a time, other times all twelve at once, when we meet Fegan it has been seven long years since his "followers," as he calls them, first came calling.

Tormented to the very edge of sanity, Fegan barely manages to do more each day than wander down to the pub, get drunk, go home and pass out, then get up and do it all over again. One night a friend Fegan used to run with before his time in prison comes to visit him in the pub. Now a smooth talking politician, Fegan's friend, McKenna, was once one of the men Fegan took orders from during the Troubles. Orders that led to deaths including one of Fegan's followers, the one he calls "The Boy."

As The Boy circles McKenna in the pub, miming putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger, Fegan comes to believe that what his followers want - no, demand - is justice. The followers want him to put to death those responsible for ordering theirs.
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