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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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4743821,807 (3.99)61
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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Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
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 |
Fagen, a former member of the IRA, is haunted by the 12 ghosts of the people he killed who want him to take revenge on their behalf.

I originally picked up this book because I wanted a little more context on the Troubles in Northern Ireland. I got that, at least in terms of atmosphere (and after consulting a couple of Wikipedia pages to clarify who all the different groups are). This is a very masculine book, though. There is a lot of fighting, and generally I find fights to be better suited to the movies than to books; there's only so much I care to read about fists slamming into flesh and bone. There is only one real female character in the book, and her only purpose is to be threatened or rescued, so this totally fails the Bechdel test. And really, I had no feeling for the protagonist. I was kind of hoping he would shoot himself in the head. The only element that kept me reading was the ghosts, which provided an ambiguous, mysterious element to an otherwise standard thriller plot. But I can safely say, this is the last book of this type I'm going to read if I can help it. I'm just so tired of the whole pointless, blood-soaked, violence-reveling genre. ( )
  sturlington | Sep 18, 2015 |
Only on page 66, but so far it is terrific--taut, with excellent dialogue, what I take to be fine Irish street slang (but what would I know?), and a great knack for depicting the flavor and feel of Belfast.
  goldsteph | Sep 12, 2015 |
Audiobook: Finally, a book in which the violence serves the story instead of the opposite.This is the first in a series of novels that portray Belfast and Northern Ireland following the peace accords, which left a lot of violent men with little to do and changing loyalties. Gerry Fegan had been an enforcer for one of the groups of thugs ostensibly battling the British. Now beset by guilt for those he had killed, he’s surrounded by imaginary “followers” representing each of the twelve he had killed and they won’t leave him alone until he kills those who had ordered the killings.

Much as slavery and segregation haunt U.S. history, so do the years of the Troubles for the Irish. Preserving the peace becomes a priority for those in power and they will sacrifice innocents to maintain political stability. That’s one of the underlying themes of Neville’s book. “"Even now [that] the politicians had taken over the movement," Neville writes of the Irish Republican Army paramilitaries, "even though they were shifting away from the rackets, the extortion, the thieving, people still needed to be kept in line." The British still have their undercover agents and one of those is tasked by his handlers with killing Fegan in order to prevent his killings from upsetting the delicate balance.

Note that even though billed as the first in the Jack Lennon Investigations series, Lennon plays a minuscule role unlike the second. It’s all Gerry Fegan.

I read this book after Collusion, the second in the series, and several things became clear in both volumes. I recommend reading the books in order, as knowing what happens in the second destroys any suspense in the first. Very good reading. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 9, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (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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