The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville

This crime thriller skilfully weaves almost-fact and fiction into an ever-tightening web of revenge, betrayal and violence.

Former IRA killer Gerry Fegan is haunted by the ghosts of the twelve people he murdered at the behest of his masters during The Troubles. And the ghosts will not let him rest until he has despatched those who gave the orders to kill.

I know it sounds like a cliche, but once I got going with this book I couldn’t put it down. A few of the earlier chapters need a little concentration to absorb the introduction of a wide cast of characters. Some were distinctive straight away, others took a bit of revision and repeat-reading before I could get them firmly fixed in my mind. That aside, it was a classic page turner and a thrilling but sobering read.

Having just returned from my visit to Belfast when I read this, it was a sobering – as well as thrilling – read. I’d seen the murals, the impassable fences that separate Catholic and Protestant West Belfast, and the thick metal gates that divide the residents from each other at night. I’d heard the stories of the real-life bombings which the book only lightly fictionalises. And because the rather grim geography was still firmly in my mind, I could easily visualise the streets and the bars that form the background to this book.

This book may have been published back in 2009, but it resonates now as it must have done then. Beg, steal, borrow or just buy this. Highly recommended.

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