- 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: 388 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,280,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Ghosts of Belfast (The Belfast Novels) Hardcover – October 1, 2009
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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.”
“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 Ghosts of Belfast is a smart and atmospheric thriller about the many causes served and corrupt pockets lined courtesy of sectarian hatred.”
—Maureen Corrigan, NPR.org
"Stuart Neville is Ireland's answer to Henning Mankell."
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“A brilliant thriller: unbearably tense, stomach churningly frightening … a future classic of its time.”
“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.”
“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."
“[Neville] is … uniquely, tragically equipped to be able to think through complex issues of justice and mercy.”
Top customer reviews
The premise--broken-down old hitman who finds humanity and mercy by protecting a woman and child--is standard for the genre (in fact, it's pretty much mandatory), but it is handled skillfully, and the last third of the book is so explosively tense I couldn't put it down till I finished. The fact that everyone's actions are not just personal vendettas but have political ramifications raises the stakes and makes the reader care about the fates of Gerry's victims, who are unpleasant people but are also holding the shaky peace together. This is a dark and gritty work, so readers looking for escapist literature would be best served to look elsewhere, but readers looking for a hardboiled political thriller should find a lot to admire here.
It's a story of closure, in which a murderer finally comes to terms with the wrongs he has done over the years. He finally realizes that the deeds he had carried out for politicians and mob leaders were never actually for a just cause. It was merely to feed their hunger for power and greed.
It was an interesting and exciting read. The story and its characters were extremely real-like, and it was written in a prose that was colorful and descriptive, yet not too graphic. It often made me feel as though I were actually present in the scene, hearing the brogue and local expressions. I'll certainly read more novels by Neville eventually.
The ghosts that haunt Fegan have a specific agenda. They want him to kill the individuals who “forced” him to cause their deaths. Gerry had done the things he did not for personal gain but because he’d been ordered to do them, and in fact had been trained to believe he was doing the right things. Pitted against his training was his mother’s influence, but that hadn’t been strong enough to overcome the other. His murders were committed for political reasons – reasons he came to realize even as he committed them were not legitimate even in the context they were presented, but were instead meant to protect and increase the power of his superiors. Now he can no longer hide this realization from himself.
In a nutshell, the novel’s plot follows Gerry’s efforts to do what his ghosts demand and the turmoil among his old associates and others that results from his efforts. I’m by no means an expert in or scholar of recent Irish history, and much of what goes on in the book might be expected to confuse me as a reader to the point I wouldn’t understand any of it and would give up trying. Surprisingly, this didn’t actually bother me. Neville navigates through this material so skillfully and so successfully that our focus and our sympathies remain on and with Gerry Fegan. The other characters, with their various agendas and their own problems, are so well portrayed that we not only see them as human beings but also see the multiple “sides” of the situation that they represent. Knowing something about the history and setting can’t hurt, but we can learn what we need to know through the story itself.
Gerry’s ghosts are metaphors in a couple of ways: they are metaphors for his feelings of guilt, and to those who begin to observe his behavior – he sees and talks to people who aren’t visible – this is all they are. It’s supposed that he has become insane. In the larger context of the book, his ghosts are also metaphors for people and beliefs and tactics that were once useful and are now obstructive. At one point, one of the characters begins to realize that “…the ghosts [of the old ways have] come to haunt the political process.”
But the ghosts are also real. I won't say how that's revealed, but when it is, we’re forced to see Gerry Fegan for who he really is, a man who’s been manipulated by history and politics and power and the ghosts themselves to commit acts that he himself, as a basically good person, cannot condone. Gerry’s ghosts never speak; they only point mutely at those on whom they want Gerry to take revenge. Only in the last sentence of the book does the last remaining ghost say a word.