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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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3932827,083 (4)38
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

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The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville (2009)


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The Ghosts of Belfast is the story of Gerry Fegan an ex-hitman for the IRA. After leaving Maze Prison Gerry starts drinking and is nearly drunk every night, and he starts to see the ghosts of twelve people he has killed and they want vengeance on those who were responsible. All Gerry wants is to sleep aand have some peace so he plans the murders. This is a well written and informative book about the IRA. The characters are well thought out, there is alot of violence and brutal murders.
I highly recommend this book. Thank you to Net Galley and Soho Crime for allowing me to read and give my honest review of this fine novel. ( )
  druidgirl | Jan 26, 2014 |
The Troubles may be over and peace in Northern Ireland reached, but Gerry Fegan's troubles are far from over. During the tumult he was one of the IRA's most ruthless henchmen, killing twelve people - and now their ghosts literally haunt him. He's always had a talent - if you can call it that - for seeing the dead, but these ghosts have haunted him for seven years, keeping him awake with their screams, something only the drink can quiet. When he converses with a prominent politician, McKenna, in the bar in which he frequents, he finally discovers what the ghosts want. They don't want his remorse; they want him to kill the people who gave him the orders that resulted in their deaths.

Sometimes fiction can be a better teacher than the history books. I knew nothing of the Troubles in Northern Ireland before reading this novel, and the IRA was a far-off entity of freedom fighters who occasionally made American news. On the surface, Ireland has changed greatly: it's prosperous and there are more opportunities than ever before. Because no one beyond Fegan is sure who's responsible for the murders, Fegan's mission threatens to upend all the shady deals between the Unionists and the Republicans that tenuously keep peace in place. But there's no stopping Fegan once he's figured out what his ghostly companions want.

Complicating matters is Davy Campbell. An undercover agent, Campbell a man who's been on the inside so long he can't imagine ever getting out. But his handlers - whom I gathered to be British intelligence - disagree. In a way, Campbell and Fegan are one in the sense that they're both compromised men who made their living off the Troubles. In their scenes together I could feel the sympathy between them. Despite Campbell's apparent betrayal to the cause, he gets a reprieve from Neville's cold eye, for Neville's portraits of the politicians and people in power in this novel is unforgiving.

Marie McKenna, niece to the murdered McKenna, is Fegan's love interest and all the more interesting because Neville plays her as more of a lifeline for Fegan, the life jacket thrown to a man drowning in his efforts to reach redemption. His hopes for happiness and healing rest solely with her and her daughter, Ellen, though it's Ellen, through her childhood innocence, who helps him the most. She's the Ireland Fegan fought for.

The writing is taut and stripped of all banality. I really felt for Fegan - for who hasn't done things they regret? - and hoped fervently that he would find some measure of peace, if not actual happiness. Whether he gets that in the end, or has traveled too far into the abyss, is something to be pondered long after reading. ( )
  stacy_chambers | Aug 22, 2013 |
Fast, paced, action filled revenge tale which made for a quick easy read except the ending was too clean considering the messiness of the main character throughout the rest of the novel. ( )
  revslick | Jun 13, 2013 |
Grim and dark... just the way I like my vigilantes. Okay, so maybe Gerry's not really a vigilante... but... when a bad man does bad things for a good reason, how can you not side with him?

I was very concerned when I bought this book that it would have a supernatural thread. But it doesn't, not really - it's certainly not a supernatural story... it's a gritty, dark noir where a man tries to find absolution for things he's done.

Are there ghosts or is Gerry insane? I don't think it matters: the story isn't resolved via some supernatural interference so it never got into the "fantasy" realm. This keeps the story particularly dark and grim... but that's Gerry's life, isn't it.

There is quite a bit of Irish 'politics' which was very different from the usual setting of this type of noir... I liked it for the difference, but I can see how it might be a bit cumbersome for a casual noir reader.

All in all I thought the book was terrific and have bought the next in the series already. This story is wrapped up (no cliffhanger) but how can one say no to another book with crazy Gerry in it? ( )
  crazybatcow | May 5, 2013 |
Gerry Fegan is a man haunted by ghosts. As a foot soldier in the strife between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Gerry was a hit man for Northern Ireland's interests, or more accurately, for the men who sought to exploit The Troubles for their own personal gains. Now, decades after the tensions have nominally ceased and the Good Friday Accords have set Ireland on the path toward a more peaceable future, the ghosts of twelve of Gerry's victims have come back. Gerry himself has spent time in prison for his crimes and only wants to be left alone in peace; but the ghosts won't let him be. "Everybody pays," so says the mother of one of Gerry's victims. This becomes the theme of the vendetta tale as Gerry seeks to expunge the curse: The ghosts will leave, but only after Gerry kills the men ultimately responsible for the each of the ghost's respective deaths.

Stuart Doyle creates an immediately sympathetic character in Gerry Fagen. At once both the cold and crazy killer and, a man who seeks the peace of a good night's sleep, Gerry must put past matters to rest before he can face an uncertain future. Remaking himself, becoming the better man, is a process that requires some dirty work before absolution and progress can be made. In this, Gerry Fagen becomes a metaphor for Stormont (the Northern Ireland Parliament) in that Stormont, even as they eagerly race forward toward the economic promises of the future, seeks to shed it violent past; but must deal with political "necessities." The Ghosts of Belfast is about Gerry and Stormont: their pasts, their presents and their hopeful futures.

The Ghosts of Belfast is Irish Noir with all the implied tragedy, grittiness and heart. This is the story of hard men doing hard things in hard times and none of it is pretty; and all of it is believably portrayed. The writing is suspenseful and even breathtaking in parts, perhaps not so much in the language used but in the emotions evoked.

The Ghosts of Belfast is graphic in its violence; but never gratuitous given the nature of the story. There is a dogfighting scene that may seem superfluous and a bit too intense for some; but it works, especially if one views it as another metaphor for Gerry and Northern Ireland.

Gerard Doyle is the voice of Irish Noir and exceptionally good in The Ghosts of Belfast. Some lines are delivered in chilling softness and others in aggressive clarity that all deliver the moment at hand with the tension, tenderness and/or suffering as the story's scenes dictate. The narrator conveys the mood and the characters with astuteness and skill, and there is no sense anywhere throughout the novel that Gerard Doyle misinterpreted the intent of the story or a line of dialogue. All characters are given enough of a distinction so that there no doubt as to who might be speaking in any given dialogue; and the females are all respectfully represented - without any penchant to delivering their voices in a falsetto. If there's any quibble at all, it has nothing to do with the narrator's performance per se - only that there was what sounded like a bit of booth noise a couple of times; but it was very subtle and most listeners will not notice it.

Redacted from the original blog review at dog eared copy, The Ghosts of Belfast; 03/13/2012 ( )
  Tanya-dogearedcopy | Apr 4, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (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 editionsconfirmed
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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