The New York Times
A onetime IRA hit man, haunted by ghosts, stalks his former bosses.
The New York Times
The Washington Post
“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 best first novel I’ve read in years…. It’s a flat-out terror trip.”
“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 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…. This noir thriller plays out in a Belfast that, even in summer sunshine, remains oppressively gray. The clannishness of its inhabitants is vividly evoked in Neville's descriptions of a tiny rowhouse packed with mourners for a murdered man's wake or a seedy pub where the bartender has learned to look the other way when violence arrives. A riot scene, one of the novel's best, captures a new generation's appetite for blood and an old veteran's nostalgia…. 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.”
Read an Excerpt
The Ghosts of Belfast
By Stuart Neville
Soho Press, Inc.Copyright © 2009 Stuart Neville
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMaybe if he had one more drink they'd leave him alone. Gerry Fegan told himself that lie before every swallow. He chased the whiskey's burn with a cool black mouthful of Guinness and placed the glass back on the table. Look up and they'll be gone, he thought.
No. They were still there, still staring. Twelve of them if he counted the baby in its mother's arms.
He was good and drunk now. When his stomach couldn't hold any more he would let Tom the barman show him to the door, and the twelve would follow Fegan through the streets of Belfast, into his house, up his stairs, and into his bedroom. If he was lucky, and drunk enough, he might pass out before their screaming got too loud to bear. That was the only time they made a sound, when he was alone and on the edge of sleep. When the baby started crying, that was the worst of it.
Fegan raised the empty glass to get Tom's attention.
"Haven't you had enough, Gerry?" Tom asked. "Is it not home time yet? Everyone's gone."
"One more," Fegan said, trying not to slur. He knew Tom would not refuse. Fegan was still a respected man in West Belfast, despite the drink.
Sure enough, Tom sighed and raised a glass to the optic. He brought the whiskey over and counted change from the stained tabletop. The gummy film of old beer and grime sucked at his shoes as he walked away.
Fegan held the glass up and made a toast to his twelve companions. One of the five soldiers among them smiled and nodded in return. The rest just stared.
"Fuck you," Fegan said. "Fuck the lot of you."
None of the twelve reacted, but Tom looked back over his shoulder. He shook his head and continued walking to the bar.
Fegan looked at each of his companions in turn. Of the five soldiers three were Brits and two were Ulster Defence Regiment. Another of the followers was a cop, his Royal Ulster Constabulary uniform neat and stiff, and two more were Loyalists, both Ulster Freedom Fighters. The remaining four were civilians who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. He remembered doing all of them, but it was the civilians whose memories screamed the loudest.
There was the butcher with his round face and bloody apron. Fegan had dropped the package in his shop and held the door for the woman and her baby as she wheeled the pram in. They'd smiled at each other. He'd felt the heat of the blast as he jumped into the already moving car, the blast that should have come five minutes after they'd cleared the place.
The other was the boy. Fegan still remembered the look in his eyes when he saw the pistol. Now the boy sat across the table, those same eyes boring into him.
Fegan couldn't hold his gaze, so he turned his eyes downward. Tears pooled on the tabletop. He brought his fingers to the hollows of his face and realised he'd been weeping.
"Jesus," he said.
He wiped the table with his sleeve and sniffed back the tears. The pub's stale air clung to the back of his throat, as thick as the dun-colored paint on the walls. He scolded himself. He neither needed nor deserved pity, least of all his own. Weaker men than him could live with what they'd done. He could do the same.
A hand on his shoulder startled him.
"Time you were going, Gerry," Michael McKenna said.
Tom slipped into the storeroom behind the bar. McKenna paid him to be discreet, to see and hear nothing.
Fegan knew the politician would come looking for him. He was smartly dressed in a jacket and trousers, and his fine-framed designer glasses gave him the appearance of an educated man. A far cry from the teenager Fegan had run the streets with thirty years ago. Wealth looked good on him.
"I'm just finishing," Fegan said.
"Well, drink up and I'll run you home." McKenna smiled down at him, his teeth white and even. He'd had them fixed so he could look presentable for the cameras. The party leadership had insisted on it before they gave him the nomination for his seat in the Assembly. At one time, not so long past, it had been against party policy to take a seat at Stormont. But times change, even if people don't.
"I'll walk," Fegan said. "It's only a couple of minutes."
"It's no trouble," McKenna said. "Besides, I wanted a word."
Fegan nodded and took another mouthful of stout. He held it on his tongue when he noticed the boy had risen from his place on the other side of the table. It took a moment to find him, shirtless and skinny as the day he died, creeping up behind McKenna.
The boy pointed at the politician's head. He mimed firing, his hand thrown upwards by the recoil. His mouth made a plosive movement, but no sound came.
Fegan swallowed the Guinness and stared at the boy. Something stirred in his mind, one memory trying to find another. The chill at his center pulsed with his heartbeat.
"Do you remember that kid?" he asked.
"Don't, Gerry." McKenna's voice carried a warning.
"I met his mother today. I was in the graveyard and she came up to me."
"I know you did," McKenna said, taking the glass from Fegan's fingers.
"She said she knew who I was. What I'd done. She said-"
"Gerry, I don't want to know what she said. I'm more curious about what you said to her. That's what we need to talk about. But not here." McKenna squeezed Fegan's shoulder. "Come on, now."
"He hadn't done anything. Not really. He didn't tell the cops anything they didn't know already. He didn't deserve that. Jesus, he was seventeen. We didn't have to-"
Excerpted from The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville Copyright © 2009 by Stuart Neville. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Stuart Neville is a partner in a multimedia design business based in Armagh, northern Ireland. This novel, also known as The Twelve in the UK and Ireland, is the first in a series.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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"All I wanted was some peace. I just wanted to sleep." - Gerry Fegan Set in Belfast in the aftermath of Northern Ireland's Troubles, The Ghosts of Belfast introduces us to ex-con Gerry Fegan. Treated by the locals as a hero for his activities as a "hard man" during the Troubles, activities that got him sent to prison for twelve years, Fegan just wants to leave his past in the past and live out his life in peace. That, unfortunately, isn't going to happen. The guilt of his own conscience weighs heavily enough upon him, but that is not the only burden Fegan has to bear. Shortly before his release from prison Fegan began getting visits. Not from friends or family, but from the ghosts of the twelve people he killed during the Troubles. Sometimes only one or two at a time, other times all twelve at once, when we meet Fegan it has been seven long years since his "followers," as he calls them, first came calling. Tormented to the very edge of sanity, Fegan barely manages to do more each day than wander down to the pub, get drunk, go home and pass out, then get up and do it all over again. One night a friend Fegan used to run with before his time in prison comes to visit him in the pub. Now a smooth talking politician, Fegan's friend, McKenna, was once one of the men Fegan took orders from during the Troubles. Orders that led to deaths including one of Fegan's followers, the one he calls "The Boy." As The Boy circles McKenna in the pub, miming putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger, Fegan comes to believe that what his followers want - no, demand - is justice. The followers want him to put to death those responsible for ordering theirs. Ignoring the potential consequences of killing a politician crucial to the fledgling peace process, not to mention one still very much "connected," Fegan tests his theory by killing McKenna. Sure enough, The Boy disappears. And with that, all in the first fifteen pages, we are off and running. One down, eleven to go. As Fegan systematically seeks to balance the scales, and hopefully save his sanity, the reader is given glimpses back in time to the circumstances under which each of his followers was killed. It's not pretty, as author Stuart Neville provides graphic descriptions of Fegan's past brutality as a hard man. And yet, one never gets the feeling that the depictions of violence are being used gratuitously. Rather, they are necessary to illustrate the events which gave birth to Fegan's extreme guilt, and which justify in his mind the extreme measures he's willing to take to rid himself of that guilt... and of his followers. Part noir, part ghost story, The Ghosts of Belfast is unflinchingly brutal, completely original, and absolutely brilliant. Stuart Neville has most definitely announced his presence with authority.
I loved the writers style and flow of the story its a brutal story with many twist and turns it will keep you on the edge of your seat. The characters are all very colorful people with shady back rounds that came from their struggle for freedom. I was amazed at the level of violence and the brutal tactics of torture used to maintain absolute allegence to their cause yet they still where infiltrated with touts constantly. This book would be a great block buster movie!!!!
This first novel is a gripping, edge-of-your-seat read. Neville melds an original concept and a riveting plot to create a top-notch thriller. "The Ghosts of Belfast" is one of those rare books that I truly "missed" when I had finished reading it.
I stumbled across this book on B&N and intrigued, read it. I was NOT disappointed. Wow. The story was great, the characters very interesting. I would love to hear more about the main character. He seemed to deserve a better life at the end. The writing really made you see Belfast and Ireland. Hopefully we can expect many more books from this author.
Truly the best book I've read in a long time. A gripping story which will grab your attention and not let it go. I'm so glad to see this is the first in a series. Can't wait to read the next one.
Gerry Fegan believed in the cause of freeing Northern Ireland from the British. He was a soldier who did the assigned tasks willing to die for his belief and committed atrocities against adversaries. He felt no remorse when he killed a civilian as collateral damage is the norm in warfare especially urban guerilla warfare. He was able to ignore the greed of his superior officers as long as the cause was just especially with whiskey. However Gerry is not an ordinary soldier as he has always been able to communicate with the dead. While believing in the cause, he could keep the spirits of those he killed in the shadows, but no more. The Good Friday Agreement leaves Gerry free in Belfast living under British Rule and wondering why he believed. Those he followed in combat and went to prison for now serve in Parliament; while they are fat, dumb and wealthy, Fegan feels the guilt of the twelve innocent people he killed; their ghosts demand he do what those fat cats trained him to do: kill his former allies. This is a great haunting war story whether one agreed with the IRA or not as THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST could easily have been the ghosts of Saigon or even Baghdad, as the soldier's psyche depends critically on the cause. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as Gerry begins his new mission while his former friends send an agent to stop him. Readers will appreciate this thought provoking thriller that will have the audience pondering the prime underlying cause and the short and long term effects. Harriet Klausner
Also published under the title 'The Twelve' This novel is a stunning debut thriller; tension-filled from start to finish telling the fictional story of Gerry Fegan, a former IRA assassin who is haunted by ghosts of his twelve victims. I was grabbed from the first pages and I couldn't read fast enough to see the outcome. The tale begins with the central protagonist, Gerry Fegan, driven to the brink of insanity, haunted and tormented day and night by the terrible memories of the twelve people he killed. Since his release from Maze Prison, he spends his waking moments in a state of inebriation in an attempt to seek refuge from the visions and guilt that continually haunt him. One day through a vision, he sees a possible way out, eliminate the people who contracted these murders and hopefully banished the ghosts of guilt forever and lead a normal life. One by one, Fegan seeks out the master minds and makes them pay for their misguided decisions, a life for a life, gradually clearing the burden hanging heavy over his shoulders. This novel is full of energy creating an escalating sense of tension as you go deeper into it. The author has created a harsh and unrelenting story that dabs into the political and religious landscape of today's Ireland and the fragility of its peace accord. The prose is sharp and emotional. ' Ghosts of Belfast' is a mystery novel with a different spin, brilliantly done and brims with its strong characterization. We see how leaders with self centered ideas manipulate the minds of average people and turn them into puppets, some haunted by their actions for the rest of their life. I enjoyed my time spent with this thought provoking thriller.
This is an excellent thriller with great political undertones regarding the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Gerry Fegan is a compelling character who you want to empathize with, but who also has a dark history which is hard to ignore. It is Gerry's haunting ghosts who deserve your sympathy. For anyone interested in an Irish thriller, this books satisfies and intrigues. Neville's second book in this series is also excellent - "Collusion." I also suggest Tara French's great Irish detective novels - "In the Woods" and "The Likeness"
Fabulouly written, an absolute must-read, even if you find the seemingly never-ending "troubles" of Ireland depressing beyond words. This imaginatively-written book brings the whole thing to life in a way I never would have thought I would enjoy. I'm starting to find these incredible European books; I should have done it much earlier.
I was absolutely thrilled at finding this book! I am adding Stuart Neville to my list of fav's along with Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly and John Harvey. Can't wait for the next one.
kept my interest throughout
Well-written and fast paced. Fegan is a terribly complex and human protagonist, at once brutal and compassionate, driven by anger, shame, guilt,and ultimately love. Given the violence with which he has lived, the ending is surprising but satisfying. The plot is compelling, and leaves the reader with much to think about and discuss. Neville is a novelist I would read again.
This book is a wonderfull mix with paranormal and mafia type hitmen. Ghosts of his past hits haunt him and have him killing those who ordered them dead. I reccomend this, you will not be bored with this one. It is written pretty good and you get the feeling you get to know all the characters, dead and alive. Great read!! Pick it up
This is a very dark, gritty and haunting novel. I was intrigued by the story line and the character of Gerry Fagan. He's a tortured soul trying to find absolution for his past crimes, and that part was interesting to me. The stuff I didn't care for was the excessive amount of cursing that at times seemed unneccesary. It's very violent, and very harsh, and if that isn't your thing then I don't recommend this book.
I really enjoyed this book and hope that it is made into a movie! It's fast-paced and well written. Mr. Neville knows how to draw the reader into the characters. I hated to go to sleep at night because I wanted to keep reading. I read my nook during transportation to and from work and on my lunch hour. Finished it in two days - fantastic!
Very good read, some parts are difficult to get through because of the writer's in-depth knowledge of the history and struggles of Ireland's political powers. If I was 15-20 years older it would have been easier for me to follow the story line. But overall, a good read with just to right amount of details to provoke a reader's feelings about the main characters and their thrilling situations. Def. going to read #2 in the series. :)
Good writing I do not know how accurate it protrays actual events because I am not that familar with them. A lot of blood and guts.
This is a good murder mystery with some twists and turns that make for good reading. I takes place in post war Ireland and deals with the how the creators of all the violence coped with peace and becoming obsolete.
I felt a little out of my element when I first started reading,but once I got onto it,it was hard to put down. Not your typical protagonist. I liked the difference.
i finished it a few days ago, and still i can't get this book out of my head. the image...narrative...characters...all fascinating. i'm from korea, and the political, regional conflicts inside a single nation this book depict remind me of those of my own country's. anyway, this is a good, very good book.
A great read. Story line keeps you very interested. Cant wait to read book two. Highly reccommend this book.
Dark thriller with memorable characters. The character's motivation isn't always fully believable, and some characters are way one-dimensional; but the plot keeps going quickly, the background is dark and believable, and the dialogue is tight. The e-book suffers from hyphenation problems, e.g. "sometimes" will become "some -times", but apart from that is pretty clean.
The "Troubles" in Northern Ireland have spawned many novels, but none as intense and different as Ghosts. Based on the past efforts of Republicans to force unification with Eire and the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in the North, the novel focuses on the torment of Gerry Fegan who has, as an assassin on orders from above, killed a dozen victims, some of whom were innocent, two of whom he liquidated while on a furlough from prison to attend his mother's funeral. After serving his prison sentence, Fegan returns to Belfast and is given a sinecure by the Party to support him. But he is haunted by the "ghosts" of his victims who demand he avenge them by slaying those responsible for ordering their deaths. The novel is divided into 12 sections, one for each of the avenging ghosts. As Fegan accomplishes each step in the series, complications in the political situation arise as he upsets the delicate balance achieved in the peace process. The story is told basically through the eyes of Fegan and Campbell, an undercover British intelligence operative. Both are viewed sympathetically, although Fegan more so. Each, however, is considered redundant in the present-day province. Meanwhile, British, IRA and other northern Irish personages are treated as hypocritical opportunists. The history of both parts of the Irish isle is gruesome, and the events and characters in the novel emphasize the cost. As one of the "ghosts" states: "Everybody pays." Tightly written and graphically presented, the debut novel was the first in a series, giving the reader much to look forward to. Highly recommended.
Not sure who recommended this book but it was a fantastic read. This book is set in modern day Ireland - in the aftermath of the Troubles. All the old revolutionary leaders are now part of the machine falling into the politician molds of saving their skin. Enter Fegan. During the Troubles, Fegan was the enforcer. He killed 12 people for his friends and the cause. Now, 30 years on, he lives with the ghosts of regret. The souls of the people he killed haunt him to edge of sanity. He finds that the only way to find any peace in his life is to atone for his past crimes. He sets out to systematically appease his ghosts. This novel is full of suspense and has a pretty unique plot. I'm interested in reading more from this author.