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The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville

The Ghosts of Belfast (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Stuart Neville

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5514018,146 (3.96)66
Title:The Ghosts of Belfast
Authors:Stuart Neville
Info:Soho Crime (2009), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library, 2012
Tags:Stuart Neville, crime fiction, Belfast

Work details

The Twelve by Stuart Neville (2009)

  1. 00
    I Hear the Sirens in the Street by Adrian McKinty (crazybatcow)
    crazybatcow: Same setting, same dark tone, same violence (and if you get it in audiobook, same narrator). McKinty's is a bit more "true to life" and Neville's a bit more, err, extreme, but otherwise, very similar novels.
  2. 00
    Divorcing Jack by Colin Bateman (VivienneR)

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» See also 66 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
The first half was 5 stars. The last half, particularly after the first half, was 2. So I evened it out. It was disappointing because Fagen is an almost great character limited by a fabulous conceit that isn't allowed to spin out. That said, it was a quick and engaging read. ( )
  mkunruh | Nov 13, 2016 |
The Ghosts of Belfast was Stuart Neville's debut. It won a few awards and I can see why- it's a very tightly written thriller about a period in recent history that's not well known, at least in the US.

The main character, Fegan, is a somewhat locally-legendary ex-enforcer for the IRA who has been released after a pretty long stint in prison. The world has changed a bit and the all-out Irish civil war has ended, but that doesn't mean the former members of the IRA have suddenly become docile. Fegan, though, spends his days and nights drinking and is 'visited' by the ghosts of the people he's killed. He discovers the way to get rid of the ghosts is to kill the person or persons responsible for ordering their deaths.

The remainder of 'Ghosts' is comprised of Fegan's journey to seek retribution while navigating the labyrinthine tribal relationships of the inhabitants of his part of Northern Ireland. It's complicated by his falling in love with a young lady who happens to be a relative of one of his victims. It's further complicated by a number of other issues as well, mostly related to the complex political situation in Northern Ireland at that time.

The novel is well-written and fast-paced, with good dialogue and realistic relationships. Character development is deftly addressed, and by the conclusion you feel you know the participants pretty well and can almost sympathize with Fegan, at least as much as you can sympathize with a killer who's knocked off over 20 people and sees ghosts. I look forward to getting into the rest of Neville's catalog- he's a fine writer and he's made the time and place of his setting for this book very interesting. ( )
  gmmartz | Nov 12, 2016 |
This review will contain some spoilers because I found it very difficult to express some of the things I didn't like without actually saying what those things were. None of these spoilers are too big and I won't say how the book ends but they may answer some questions before you read the book.

This book is different from anything that I have read before. The clear (or not so clear) like between good guys and bad guys that usually more or less appears in most books is absent here. What you have is a main character and his antagonists.

One thing I liked is that the ghosts are not metaphorical. Fegan sees the ghosts that haunt him when he's awake, even though the rest of the people can't. While I liked that the ghosts are not just a way of explaining the main character's guilt, I thought it was a bit disappointing how unghosty they are. It's never really clear whether the ghosts are real or just in Fegan's head (although at one point someone else mentions one of the ghost as if she could see it), but even though they appear a lot, they never do anything. Sure, they are the reason for the plot, but other than this, they're just there.

What I did not like so much was that I never felt that there was any suspense about what was going to happen. By the time I reached the end of the book, I had the impression of having read about four hundred pages where not many things happened. The plot includes a lot of things, but because of the lack of intrigue, it can look like you have read a lot of pages where the plot did not move much.

The book is not bad and the premise is great, but after reading the summary, I was expecting something a bit different. ( )
  Hellen0 | Jun 22, 2016 |
THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST, by Stuart Neville, is about an ex-con named Gerry Fegan being harassed by the ghosts of those he has killed.
The book sets off at a good pace, introducing the other players in his world. It’s not really heavy into describing locations, but good enough to give you the basic feel of the place. The language is course, as would be expected amongst violent men.
The men of the underground army are brutal, unforgiving men. They are rough and believable. For some, this is the only thing they’ve ever known.

Fegan gripped Toner’s ring finger. “Who’s the cop?”
“Gerry, please, I can’t.”
Toner screamed again, drowning out the sound of cracking bone. Fegan sighed. He was surprised at Toner. He’d always taken him for weak; the solicitor was anything but. He ground the bones together.

My favorite character is the protagonist, Gerry Fegan. He sees and communicates with ‘shadows,’ ghosts of dead people; how splendid is that? Unfortunately, he’s also consuming way too much alcohol in an attempt to run away from them. When the twelve ghosts of those who he has murdered require him to avenge their deaths by killing someone else who was also involved in their murder, he has no qualms about getting the job done. One by one, his tormentor ghosts disappear as the other killers are taken out by Gerry. His acquaintances (there are no real friends exempt from being double-crossed when you’re part of this organization) think he’s gone mad, talking to people that they can’t see.

Fegan shook his head. “I’m sorry.”
“Thirty years, Gerry. We’ve known each other thirty-“
The Walther barked once, throwing red and grey against the windscreen. ***** slumped forward onto the steering wheel, and the Merc’s horn screamed at the night. Fegan reached forward, pulled him back against the seat, and silence swallowed them.

I’ve always been interested in the experiences of the everyman in Irish, Welsh, and Scottish life, so I found this book very appealing.

“You’re a respected man around here,” she said.
“They don’t respect me. They’re afraid of me.”
“I’m not afraid of you.”
Fegan plucked at the beer can’s ring-pull. “You know what I did?” “I’ve heard things,” she said. Her shoulder brushed against his and he shivered. “Listen, I’ve known men like you all my life. My uncles, my father, my brothers. I know the other side, too, the cops and the Loyalists. I’ve talked to them all in my job. Everyone has their piece of guilt to carry. You’re not that special.”

I’m happy to say, the plot surprised me towards the end. It gave me chills! No spoilers here; you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens.
As with Adrian McKinty’s fabulous DEAD TRILOGY books, Stuart Neville knows his stuff when it comes to the Irish Troubles and how it affected people.
If you’re interested at all in the scratchy existence of the Irish activists, you must read THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST.
( )
  BooksOn23rd | Nov 25, 2015 |
This is a hugely compelling crime novel, a savage but oddly sensitive book about the evil and soul-crushing nature of violence. Gerry Fegan spent his young adulthood as a "foot soldier" for the Catholic leaders during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 80s and 90s. Put more directly, he was a thug and an assassin, but always believing he was a soldier fighting for a cause. He has been out for several years after a 12-year turn in prison for his actions. Now peace and compromise are gradually becoming the rule of the day, but Gerry has a giant problem. He is being haunted by the ghosts of 12 of the people whose deaths he caused. They do not speak, but at night those who died painfully scream out their agony. They silently make it known to Gerry the price he must pay, and the actions he must take, to earn the right to live out the rest of his live free of their presence and torment. He must use his skills as a killer to be the agent of the ghosts' violent retribution. As Fegan moves through his horrifying odyssey, the reader is provided a vivid window of the Troubles themselves, the bloody struggles to blast the counties of Northern Ireland free of British rule and Protestant domination, and the inevitable push-back by Protestant loyalists and the British themselves, and the society within which all this bloody chaos reigned. This is a disturbing book, in many ways a brilliant one, and the writing is excellent. I found it almost impossible to put down. ( )
  rocketjk | Oct 22, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
A crime novel that counts among the best brought out this calendar year... "The Ghosts of Belfast" would have been a superior effort had it been just about Fegan's struggle to assert his inner goodness in the face of larger evil, but its narrative power draws further strength from Neville's acute understanding of Northern Ireland's true state and how, in just a few short years, "the North had become the poor relation, the bastard child no one had the heart to send away."

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stuart Nevilleprimary authorall editionscalculated
Doyle, GerardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gontermann, ArminTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'The place that lacks its ghosts is a barren place' John Hewitt
For Ellen Emerald Neville
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Maybe if he had one more drink they'd leave him alone.
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Published in the USA as The Ghosts of Belfast Published in the UK as The Twelve
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Former IRA killer Gerry Fegan finds himself haunted by the ghosts of twelve of his innocent victims and comes to the conclusion that he must kill the men who gave him his orders so many years ago.

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