Ratlines

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Overview

Ireland 1963. As the Irish people prepare to welcome President John F. Kennedy to the land of his ancestors, a German national is murdered in a seaside guesthouse. Lieutenant Albert Ryan, Directorate of Intelligence, is ordered to investigate. The German is the third foreigner to die within a few days, and Minister for Justice Charles Haughey wants the killing to end lest a shameful secret be exposed: the dead men were all Nazis granted asylum by the Irish government in the ...

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Ratlines

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Overview

Ireland 1963. As the Irish people prepare to welcome President John F. Kennedy to the land of his ancestors, a German national is murdered in a seaside guesthouse. Lieutenant Albert Ryan, Directorate of Intelligence, is ordered to investigate. The German is the third foreigner to die within a few days, and Minister for Justice Charles Haughey wants the killing to end lest a shameful secret be exposed: the dead men were all Nazis granted asylum by the Irish government in the years following World War II.

A note from the killers is found on the dead German's corpse, addressed to Colonel Otto Skorzeny, Hitler's favorite commando, once called the most dangerous man in Europe. The note simply says: "We are coming for you."

As Albert Ryan digs deeper into the case he discovers a network of former Nazis and collaborators, all presided over by Skorzeny from his country estate outside Dublin. When Ryan closes in on the killers, his loyalty is torn between country and conscience. Why must he protect the very people he fought against twenty years before? Ryan learns that Skorzeny might be a dangerous ally, but he is a deadly enemy.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set on the eve of President Kennedy's 1963 visit to Ireland, this thrilling, historically informed stand-alone from Irish author Neville (Stolen Souls) charts the efforts of Irish intelligence officer Albert Ryan to discover who murdered three Nazis granted asylum in Ireland after WWII. Ryan has to be wary of real-life Col. Otto Skorzeny, one of the most dangerous surviving Nazis, to whom a note on one of the bodies was addressed: "We are coming for you." In his digging, Ryan learns of the titular "ratlines," the secret routes use to ferry postwar Nazis from one safe place to another. Complicating Ryan's investigation is his growing attraction to Celia Hume, a woman of mysterious means whose job it is to charm important men and ascertain secrets. As Ryan tracks the killer, he meets Mossad agent Goren Weiss, who's intent on getting to Skorzeny. Readers will hope to see more of Ryan, a formidable yet damaged hero. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber Associates. Author tour. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
Guardian (UK) Best Thriller of 2013

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Best Book of 2013

A 2014 Barry Award Best Thriller Nominee

A 2014 Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award Nominee

Praise for Ratlines

"Ratlines is a belter: fast, furious, bloody and good."
—Ian Rankin, New York Times bestselling author of Exit Music

"Ratlines is a brash and exciting thriller, full of hairpin turns and espionage. Even the film "Dr. No" makes an appearance, appropriate for a book that tries to create a James Bond with a lilt instead of a Connery-style brogue."
—The Christian Science Monitor

"The current master of neo-noir detective fiction."
Boston Globe

"The moral ambiguities touch everyone.... This is complex fiction with a disturbing ring of truth."
Financial Times

"The plot reminds me of Jack Higgins at his very best.... This is a first-rate story that seizes the imagination, and never lets go."
—Daily Mail (UK)

"The author's clean, direct prose, well-utilised research, intricate plotting and deep characterisation all add up to a seriously impressive piece of crime fiction, that lingers long in the memory."
—The Independent (UK)

"Neville's writing is agile and atmospheric...creating a memorable monster in slippery, belligerent Haughey."
—The Guardian (UK)

"A Nazi-hunting thriller writhing with double and triple-crosses and a supremely colourful cast."
—Metro (UK)

“Thrilling.... Readers will hope to see more of Ryan, a formidable yet damaged hero."
Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

"Set in a time when James Bond was becoming popular, Neville's lean, mean prose tells a brutal story that's the opposite of 007...but no less captivating."
—Shelf-Awareness

“The setup is real-life history and the rest is ‘just a story.’ But what a story it is!”
—BookPage

"Neville writes wonderfully, setting the scene in precise, economical prose; pitting well-defined, historically inspired characters in opposition to each other; and tangling the plotlines tantalizingly... With a character this strong, we want to see him fight to the finish."
—Booklist

"The best thrillers usually have the protagonist in a moral dilemma, and the dilemma here is a doozy… A brilliant character study of a man of real honour."
—The Globe and Mail

"[Ratlines] is the real goods....A gripping and violent narrative."
—Toronto Star

“There is a significant breadth and depth to the historical context that gives the story real heft...[Ratlines] is a powerful thriller which provides the requisite thrills and spills, but also a thought-provoking exploration of our understanding of who we really are.”
Irish Independent


"[A] gripping mix of real-life history and compelling fictional characters."
—Stop You're Killing Me

“The first rule in getting a historical thriller right: characters first, historical details second. Stuart Neville aces it all. Grade: A.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Ratlines superbly and cleverly tells the story of a street-smart man who must find justice for those without voices, while playing various agencies against each other. Above all, he must survive being cast as a scapegoat and pawn."
Barbara Tom, The Oregonian

"By the time I finished it, I was exhausted. I couldn’t put it down."
Toronto Life Magazine

“This guy is a special talent.”
—The Irish Voice

"Well researched and extremely intriguing—all lovers of the historical and suspense genres will be absolutely blown away."
—Suspense Magazine

"Neville knows how to let a story rip with the best of them."
—Spinetingler

“Neville’s combination of smartly conceived characters, high-strung tension, and moral quandaries makes Ratlines a pell-mell-paced treat.”
—The Rap Sheet

"Brilliant."
—The Galway Advertiser

“Stuart Neville’s books just get better and better and Ratlines is simply superb. A shocking moment in history is the backdrop to a hugely gripping thriller, and I really hope we see Albert Ryan again.”
Mark Billingham, bestselling author of Rush of Blood

"A great book and the rest of the 2013 books will have to work hard to top it."
Jon Jordan, Crimespree Magazine

“Wildly entertaining, Ratlines is a superb mystery but in addition, a spotlight on a slice of Irish history largely ignored. This is a complex mystery told in the exceptional style that Stuart Neville has made his own. Jameson and Nazis, Irish rebel songs and Charles Haughey, it's a bold and brilliant blend.”
Ken Bruen, Shamus Award winning author of The Guard

“Hitler, Charlie Haughey and JFK? Now that’s what I call a set-up.”
—Declan Burke, award-winning author of Slaughter’s Hound

“The alliances and betrayals, the sharp characterizations, and the uncertain morality of all concerned keep the story leaning over the edge of conventional storytelling into an edgier and more interesting territory.... Ratlines is an excellent read.”
Glenn Harper, International Noir Fiction

"Ratlines succeeds on so many fronts. An extremely well thought out murder mystery relentlessly pursued by a very human protagonist, all set in a world 'I thought I knew, but didn’t.'"
Dan Malmon, Crimespree

“Real characters, such as Skorzeny and Haughey move alongside the fictional creations...fascinating.”
Ted Hertel, Deadly Pleasures

"Neville, whose debut, The Ghosts of Belfast, won the 2010 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller, concocts a believable plot with an intriguing protagonist torn between duty to country and his distaste for Nazi criminals. Fans of Jack Higgins and Ken Follett will enjoy this noguavel."
—Library Journal

“Another moody winner mixes Nazis into Neville's usual Irish noir.”
—Kirkus Reviews

"Neville runs his conflicted hero through a perilous maze of intrigue and double-cross, echoing the "ratlines" at the core of this gritty, fascinating thriller."
—Winnipeg Free Press

"Gritty... A lot of great visuals."
—Good Morning Texas

“Hoo boy what a story!”
—New York Journal of Books

"Another top-notch novel from this author, and highly recommended."
—Midwest Book Review

“A well-constructed backdrop is provided to the political drama as it unfolds and the whodunit element is nicely introduced.”
Mysterious Reviews

Praise for Stuart Neville
 
“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
 
“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.... 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.”
Washington Post
 
“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
 

“Stuart Neville is Ireland’s answer to Henning Mankell.”
Ken Bruen
 
The Ghosts of Belfast is a tale of revenge and reconciliation shrouded in a bloody original crime thriller.... Brilliant.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“This guy is a special talent.”
Irish Voice
 
“Neville’s debut novel is tragic, violent, exciting, plausible, and compelling.... The Ghosts of Belfast is dark, powerful, insightful, and hard to put down.”
Booklist

“Neville slowly ratchets up the tension—and the violence—until each page practically twangs with suspense.”
Publishers Weekly

Library Journal
At the end of World War II, several denazified Germans found sanctuary in Ireland, among them notorious SS officer Otto Skorzeny. Best known as the commando who rescued deposed dictator Mussolini from his mountain prison in Italy, Skorzeny set up some of the "ratlines" that served as escape routes for Nazis fleeing Allied justice. Drawing on these historical tidbits, Irish author Neville (Stolen Souls) crafts an engaging crime story set in 1963, just weeks before President Kennedy's visit to Ireland. Several murders have upset the Minister of Justice in Dublin, a man known to be friendly with Skorzeny. The victims are all ex-Nazis formerly granted asylum by the government. Intelligence agent Albert Ryan is tasked with solving the crimes before they embarrass the country and sabotage Kennedy's visit. VERDICT Neville, whose debut, The Ghosts of Belfast, won the 2010 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller, concocts a believable plot with an intriguing protagonist torn between duty to country and his distaste for Nazi criminals. Fans of Jack Higgins and Ken Follett will enjoy this novel, though some readers may find graphic scenes of torture difficult to bear.—Ron Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson
Kirkus Reviews
In a divided country on the brink of the Cold War, the hunt for a Nazi killer is more complicated--and more dangerous--than it seems. It's 1963, and the world is heating up. President John F. Kennedy, already wary of Castro, is coming to Ireland for a state visit. The entire country is excited, not only because of Kennedy's heritage, but because of the implied endorsement of the American leader in the country's continuing conflicts with the British. Therefore, when an Austrian refugee is shot point-blank in a small, rural Irish guesthouse, Dublin wants it handled quickly and quietly. The fact that the murderer left a threat for another former SS officer, one who has moved into Irish politics, cannot get out at all, and when intelligence officer Albert Ryan is brought in, he is warned that discretion may be more important than the law. Lt. Ryan is a good choice for the assignment since he's an outsider, his own loyalties both convoluted and conflicted. The son of a small-town shopkeeper, Ryan had enlisted in the British army as a teen, an act that continues to cause his family trouble. But even though his homeland remains at least partially ambivalent toward the Germans--as well as the victorious British--he knows how to put his head down and solve a murder. As his dogged, thorough police work brings him into an underworld where war criminals and politicians mingle, however, he will find that nothing is that simple. As he did in Ghosts of Belfast (2009) and its sequel, Collusion (2010), Neville shows how the past is linked to the present, particularly in the brooding Ireland of his noir thrillers. In a setting of dampness and poverty, he creates a world where grudges may last for generations and blood feuds full of the kind of pervasive detail that makes this grim world real persist. Another moody winner mixes Nazis into Neville's usual Irish noir.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616952044
  • Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/1/2013
  • Sales rank: 913,091
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.32 (d)

Meet the Author

Stuart Neville is the author of three previous books, Collusion, Stolen Souls, and The Ghosts of Belfast, winner of the 2010 LA Times Book Prize and the Spinetingler Award for Best First Novel, and a finalist for the Macavity Award, the Barry Award, and Anthony Award for Best First Novel. Stuart has taught at Trinity College in Dublin and appeared on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. He lives in Armagh, Northern Ireland.

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Read an Excerpt

Ratlines


By Stuart Neville

Soho Crime

Copyright © 2013 Stuart Neville
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781616952044

CHAPTER ONE
 
   “You don’t look like a Jew,” Helmut Krauss said to the man
reflected in the window pane.
   Beyond the glass, rolling white waves threw themselves
against the rocks of Galway Bay, the Atlantic glowering
beyond. The guesthouse in Salthill was basic, but clean. The
small seaside town outside Galway City hosted families from
all over Ireland seeking a few days of salt air and sunshine
during the summer months. Sometimes it provided beds for
unmarried couples, fornicators and adulterers with the nerve
to bluff their way past the morally upright proprietors of such
establishments.
   Krauss knew so because he had enjoyed the company of several
ladies in guesthouses like this one, taking bracing walks along
the seafront, enduring overcooked meals in mostly empty dining
rooms, then finally rattling the headboard of whatever bed they
had taken. He carried a selection of wedding rings in his pocket,
alongside the prophylactics.
   This dreary island, more grey than green, so choked by the
Godly, provided him few pleasures. So why not enjoy the odd
sordid excursion with a needful woman?
   Perhaps Krauss should have allowed himself the luxury of a
decent hotel in the city, but a funeral, even if for a close friend,
did not seem a fitting occasion. The security might have been
better, though, and this visitor might not have gained entry so
easily. For a moment, Krauss felt an aching regret, but immediately
dismissed it as foolishness. Had he been the kind of man
who submitted to regret, he would have hanged himself ten
years ago.
   “Are you a Jew?” Krauss asked.
   The reflection shifted. “Maybe. Maybe not.”
   “I saw you at the funeral,” Krauss said. “It was a beautiful
service.”
   “Very,” the reflection said. “You wept.”
   “He was a good man,” Krauss said. He watched seagulls as
they skated the updrafts.
   “He was a murderer of women and children,” the reflection
said. “Like you.”
   “Murderer,” Krauss said. “Your accent is British. For many
people in Ireland, you British are murderers. Oppressors.
Imperialists.”
   The reflection swelled on the glass as the man approached.
   “You hide your accent well.”
   “I enjoy the spoken word. To a fault, perhaps, but I spend time
refining and practicing my speech. Besides, a German accent still
draws attention, even in Ireland. They shelter me, but not all
make me welcome. Some cling to their British overmasters like a
child too old for the teat.”
   Krauss had felt the weight of his age more frequently in recent
times. His thick black hair had greyed, the sculpted features
turned cragged. The veins in his nose had begun to rupture
with the vodka and wine. Women no longer stared at him with
hungry eyes when he took his afternoon walks through Dublin’s
Ringsend Park. But he still had good years ahead of him, however
few. Would this man steal them from him?
   “Have you come to kill me too?” he asked.
   “Maybe. Maybe not,” the reflection said.
   “May I take a drink, perhaps smoke a cigarette?”
   “You may.”
   Krauss turned to him. A man of middle age, between forty
and forty five, old enough to have served in the war. He had
looked younger across the cemetery, dressed in the overalls of a
gravedigger, but proximity showed the lines on his forehead and
around his eyes. Sand-coloured hair strayed beneath the woollen
cap on his head. He held a pistol, a Browning fitted with a suppressor,
aimed squarely at Krauss’s chest. It shook.
   “Would you care for a small vodka?” Krauss asked. “Perhaps it
will steady your nerve.”
   The man considered for a few seconds. “All right,” he said.
   Krauss went to the nightstand where a bottle of imported
vodka and a tea making set waited next to that morning’s Irish
Times. The front page carried a headline about the forthcoming
visit of President John F Kennedy, a story concerning a
request by the Northern Irish government that he should venture
across the border during his days on the island. The Irish
worshipped the American leader because he was one of theirs,
however many generations removed, and anticipation of his
arrival had reached a point of near hysteria. Krauss intended
to avoid all radio and television broadcasts for the duration of
Kennedy’s stay.
   Not that it mattered now.
   Krauss turned two white teacups over and poured a generous
shot into each. He went to soften one with water from a jug, but
the man spoke.
   “No water, thank you.”
   Krauss smiled as he handed a cup to the man. “No glasses, I’m
afraid. I hope you don’t mind.”
   The man nodded his thanks as he took the cup with his left
hand. Undiluted vodka spilled over the lip. He took a sip and
coughed.
   Krauss reached into the breast pocket of his best black suit.
The man’s knuckle whitened beneath the trigger guard. Krauss
slowed the movement of his hand and produced a gold cigarette
case. He opened it, and extended it to the man.
   “No, thank you.” The man did not flinch at the engraved
swastika as Krauss had hoped. Perhaps he wasn’t a Jew, just some
zealous Briton.
   Krauss took a Peter Stuyvesant, his only concession to
Americanism, and gripped it between his lips as he snapped the
case closed and returned it to his pocket. He preferred Marlboro,
but they were too difficult to come by in this country. He took
the matching lighter from his trouser pocket and sucked the
petrol taste from its flame. The set had been a Christmas gift
from Wilhelm Frick. Krauss treasured it. Blue smoke billowed
between the men.
   “Please sit,” Krauss said, indicating the chair in the corner.
He lowered himself onto the bed and drew deeply on the cigarette,
letting the heat fill his throat and chest. “May I know your
name?” he asked.
   “You may not,” the man said.
   “All right. So why?”
   The man took another sip, grimaced at the taste, and placed
the cup on the windowsill to his left. “Why what?”
   “Why kill me?”
   “I haven’t decided if I’ll kill you or not, yet. I want to ask a few
questions first.”
   Krauss sighed and leaned back against the headboard, crossing
his legs on the lumpy mattress. “Very well.”
   “Who was the well-dressed Irishman you spoke with?”
   “An insultingly junior civil servant,” Krauss said.
   Eoin Tomalty had given Krauss’s hand a firm shake after the
ceremony. “The minister sends his condolences,” Tomalty had
said. “I’m sure you’ll understand why he was unable to attend in
person.”
   Krauss had smiled and nodded, yes, of course he understood.
   “A civil servant?” the man asked. “The government actually
sent a representative?”
   “A matter of courtesy.”
   “Who were the others there?”
   “You already know,” Krauss said. “You know me, so you must
know them.”
   “Tell me anyway.”
Krauss rhymed them off. “Célestin Lainé, Albert Luykx, and
Caoimhín Murtagh representing the IRA.”
   “The IRA?”
   “They are fools,” Krauss said. “Yokels pretending to be soldiers.
   They still believe they can free Ireland from you British. But they
are useful fools, so we avail of their assistance from time to time.”
   “Such as arranging funerals.”
   “Indeed.”
   The man leaned forward. “Where was Skorzeny?”
   Krauss laughed. “Otto Skorzeny does not waste his precious
time with common men like me. He is far too busy attending
society parties in Dublin, or entertaining politicians at that damn
farm of his.”
   The man reached inside his jacket pocket and produced a
sealed envelope. “You will pass this message to him.”
   “I’m sorry,” Krauss said. “I cannot.”
   “You will.”
   “Young man, you misunderstand me,” Krauss said. He downed
the rest of the vodka and placed the cup back on the bedside
table. “I admit to being verbose at times, it is a failing of mine,
but I believe I was clear on this. I did not say ‘I will not’. I said
‘I cannot’. I have no access to Otto Skorzeny, not socially, not
politically. You’d do better going to one of the Irish politicians
that gather to his flame.”
   The man got to his feet, approached the bed, keeping the
Browning’s aim level. With his free hand, he opened Krauss’s
jacket and stuffed the envelope down into the breast pocket.
   “Don’t worry. He’ll get it.”
   Krauss felt his bowel loosen. He drew hard on the cigarette,
burning it down to the filter, before stubbing it out in the ashtray
that sat on the bedside locker.
   The man’s hand steadied.
   Krauss sat upright, swung his legs off the bed, and rested his
feet on the floor. He straightened his back and placed his hands
on his knees.
   Fixing his gaze on the horizon beyond the window, Krauss
said, “I have money. Not much, but some. It would have been
enough to see out my days. You can have it. All of it. I will flee.
The rain in this damn place makes my joints ache anyway.”
   The Browning’s suppressor nudged his temple.
   “It’s not that simple,” the man said.
   Krauss hauled himself to his feet. The man stood back, the
pistol ready.
   “Yes it is,” Krauss said, his voice wavering as he fought the
tears. “It is that simple. I am nothing. I was a desk clerk. I signed
papers, stamped forms, and got piles from sitting on a wooden
chair in the dark and the damp.”
   The man pressed the muzzle against the centre of Krauss’s
forehead. “Those papers you signed. You slaughtered thousands
with a pen. Maybe that’s how you live with it, tell yourself it was
just a job, but you knew where—”
   Krauss swiped at the pistol, grabbed it, forced it down, throwing
the other man’s balance. The man regained his footing,
hardened his stance. His countenance held its calm, only the
bunching of his jaw muscles betraying his resistance.
   Sweat prickled Krauss’s skin and pressure built in his head.
He hissed through his teeth as he tried to loosen the man’s
fingers. The man raised the weapon, his strength rendering
Krauss’s effort meaningless. Their noses almost touched. Krauss
roared, saw the wet points of spittle he sprayed on the man’s
face.
   He heard a crack, felt a punch to his stomach, followed by wet
heat spreading across his abdomen. His legs turned to water, and
he released his hold on the barrel. He crumpled to his knees. His
hands clutched his belly, red seeping between his fingers.
   Hot metal pressed against Krauss’s temple.
   “It’s better than you deserve,” the man said.
   If he’d had the time, Helmut Krauss would have said, “I know.”

CHAPTER TWO

Albert Ryan waited with the director, Ciaran Fitzpatrick, in
the outer office, facing the secretary as she read a magazine.
The chairs were creaky and thin-cushioned. Ryan endured while
Fitzpatrick fidgeted. Almost an hour had passed since Ryan had
met the director in the courtyard surrounded by the grand complex
of buildings on Upper Merrion Street. The northern and
southern wings were occupied by various government departments,
and the Royal College of Science resided beneath the
dome that reached skyward on the western side of the quadrangle.
Ryan had expected to be ushered into the minister’s presence
upon arrival, and by the look of him, so had Fitzpatrick.
   Ryan had left his quarters at Gormanston Camp as the sky
lightened, turning from a deep bluish grey to a milky white as
he walked the short distance to the train station. Two horses
grazed in the field across from the platform, their bellies sagging,
their coats matted with neglect. They nickered to each other, the
sound carrying on the salt breeze. The Irish Sea stretched out
beyond like a black marble table.
   The train had arrived late. It filled slowly with tobacco smoke
and slack-faced men as it neared Dublin, stopping at every point
of civilisation along the way. Almost all of the passengers wore
suits, whether dressed for their day’s work in some government
office, or wearing their Sunday best for a visit to the city.
   Ryan also wore a suit, and he always enjoyed the occasion
to do so. A meeting with the Minister for Justice certainly warranted
the effort. He had walked south from Pearse Station to
Merrion Street and watched the director’s face as he approached.
Fitzpatrick had examined him from head-to-toe before nodding
his begrudged approval.
   “Inside,” he’d said. “We don’t want to be late.”
   Now Ryan checked his watch again. The minute hand ticked
over to the hour.
   He’d heard the stories about the minister. A politician with
boundless ambition and the balls to back it up. The upstart had
even married the boss’s daughter, become son-in-law to the
Taoiseach, Ireland’s prime minister. Some called him a shining
star in the cabinet, a reformist kicking at the doors of the
establishment; others dismissed him as a shyster on the make.
   Everyone reckoned him a chancer.
   The door opened, and Charles J. Haughey entered.
   “Sorry for keeping you waiting, lads,” he said as Fitzpatrick
stood. “It was sort of a late breakfast. Come on through.”
   “Coffee, Minister?” the secretary asked.
   “Christ, yes.”
   Ryan got to his feet and followed Haughey and Fitzpatrick
into the minister’s office. Once inside, Haughey shook the director’s
hand.
   “Is this our man Lieutenant Ryan?” he asked.
   “Yes, Minister,” Fitzpatrick said.
   Haughey extended his hand towards Ryan. “Jesus, you’re a big
fella, aren’t you? I’m told you did a good job against those IRA
bastards last year. Broke the fuckers’ backs, I heard.”
   Ryan shook his hand, felt the hard grip, the assertion of dominance.
Haughey stood taller than his height should have allowed,
and broad, his dark hair slicked back until his head looked like
that of a hawk, his eyes hunting weakness. He had only a couple
of years seniority over Ryan, but his manner suggested an older,
worldlier man, not a young buck with a higher office than his age
should merit.
   “I did my best, Minister,” Ryan said.
   It had been a long operation, men spending nights dug into
ditches, watching farmers come and go, noting the visitors,
sometimes following them. The Irish Republican Army’s Border
Campaign had died in 1959, its back broken long ago, but Ryan
had been tasked with making sure its corpse remained cold and
still.
   “Good,” Haughey said. “Sit down, both of you.”
   They took their places in leather upholstered chairs facing
the desk. Haughey went to a filing cabinet, whistled as he fished
keys from his pocket, unlocked a drawer, and extracted a file. He
tossed it on the desk’s leather surface and sat in his own chair. It
swivelled with no hint of creak or squeak.
   An Irish tricolour hung in the corner, a copy of the Proclamation
of the Irish Republic on the wall, along with pictures of racehorses,
lean and proud.
   “Who made your suit?” Haughey asked.
   Ryan sat silent for a few seconds before he realised the question
had been spoken in his direction. He cleared his throat and
said, “The tailor in my home town.”
   “And where’s that?”
   “Carrickmacree.”
   “Jesus.” Haughey snorted. “What’s your father, a pig farmer?”
   “A retailer,” Ryan said.
   “A shopkeeper?”
   “Yes,” Ryan said.
   Haughey’s smile split his face, giving his mouth the appearance
of a lizard’s, his tongue wet and shining behind his teeth.
   “Well, get yourself something decent. A man should have a
good suit. You can’t be walking around government offices with
the arse hanging out of your trousers, can you?”
   Ryan did not reply.
   “You’ll want to know why you’re here,” Haughey said.
   “Yes, Minister.”
   “Did the director tell you anything?”
   “No, Minister.”
   “Proper order,” Haughey said. “He can tell you now.”
   Fitzpatrick went to speak, but the secretary bustled in, a tray
in her hands. The men remained silent while she poured coffee
from the pot. Ryan refused a cup.
   When she’d gone, Fitzpatrick cleared his throat and turned in
his seat. “The body of a German national was found in a guesthouse
in Salthill yesterday morning by the owner. It’s believed he
died the previous day from gunshot wounds to the stomach and
head. His name was Helmut Krauss, and he had been resident in
Ireland since late 1949. The Garda Síochána were called to the
scene, but when the body’s identity was established, the matter
was referred to the Department of Justice, and then to my office.”
   “Who was he?” Ryan asked.
   “Here, he was Heinrich Kohl, a small businessman, nothing
more. He handled escrow for various import and export companies.
A middle man.”
   “You say ‘Here’,” Ryan said. “Meaning elsewhere, he was
something different.”
   “Elsewhere, he was SS-Hauptsturmführer Helmut Krauss of
the Main SS Economic and Administrative Department. That
sounds rather more impressive than it was in reality. I believe he
was some sort of office worker during the Emergency.”
   Government bureaucrats seldom called it the war, as if to do
so would somehow dignify the conflict that had ravaged Europe.
   “A Nazi,” Ryan said.
   “If you want to use such terms, then yes.”
   “May I ask, why aren’t the Galway Garda Síochána dealing
with this? It sounds like a murder case. The war ended eighteen
years ago. This is a civilian crime.”
   Haughey and the Fitzpatrick exchanged a glance.
   “Krauss is the third foreign national to have been murdered
within a fortnight,” the director said. “Alex Renders, a Flemish
Belgian, and Johan Hambro, a Norwegian. Both of them were
nationalists who found themselves aligned with the Reich when
Germany annexed their respective countries.”
   “And you assume the killings are connected?” Ryan asked.
   “All three men were shot at close range. All three men were
involved to some extent in nationalist movements during the
Emergency. It’s hard not to make the logical conclusion.”
   “Why were these men in Ireland?”
   “Renders and Hambro were refugees following the liberation
of their countries by the Allies. Ireland has always been welcoming
to those who flee persecution.”
   “And Krauss?”
   Fitzpatrick went to speak, but Haughey interrupted.
   “This case has been taken out of the Guards’ hands as a matter
of sensitivity. These people were guests in our country, and there
are others like them, but we don’t wish to draw attention to their
presence here. Not now. This is an important year for Ireland.
The President of the United States will visit these shores in just
a few weeks. For the first time in the existence of this republic, a
head of state will make an official visit, and not just any head of
state. The bloody leader of the free world, no less. Not only that,
he’ll be coming home, to the land of his ancestors. The whole
planet will be watching us.”
   Haughey’s chest seemed to swell as he spoke, as if he were
addressing some rally in his constituency.
   “Like the director said, these men were refugees, and this state
offered them asylum. But even so, some people, for whatever
reason, might take exception to men like Helmut Krauss living
next door. They might make a fuss about it, the kind of fuss we
could be doing without while we’re getting ready for President
Kennedy to arrive. There’s people in America, people on his own
staff, saying coming here’s a waste of time when he’s got Castro in
his back yard, and the blacks causing a ruckus. They’re advising
him to cancel his visit. They get a sniff of trouble, they’ll start
insisting on it. So it’s vital that this be dealt with quietly. Out of
the public gaze, as it were. That’s where you come in. I want you
to get to the bottom of this. Make it stop.”
   “And if I don’t wish to accept the assignment?”
   Haughey’s eyes narrowed. “I must not have made myself clear,
Lieutenant. I’m not asking you to investigate this crime. I’m
ordering you.”
   “With all due respect, Minister, you don’t have the authority
to order me to do anything.”
   Haughey stood, his face reddening. “Now hold on, big fella,
just who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?”
   Fitzpatrick raised his hands, palms up and out. “I’m sorry,
Minister, all Lieutenant Ryan means is that such an order should
come from within the command structure of the Directorate of
Intelligence. I’m sure he meant no disrespect.”
   “He better not have,” Haughey said, lowering himself back
into his chair. “If he needs an order from you, then go on and
give it.”
   Fitzpatrick turned back to Ryan. “As the Minister said, this is
not a voluntary assignment. You will be at his disposal until the
matter is resolved.”
   “All right,” Ryan said. “Are there any suspects in the killings?”
   “Not as yet,” Haughey said. “But the obvious train of thought
must be Jews.”
   Ryan shifted in his seat. “Minister?”
   “Jewish extremists,” Haughey said. “Zionists out for revenge,
I’d say. That will be your first line of inquiry.”
   Ryan considered arguing, decided against it. “Yes, minister.”
   “The Guards will give assistance where needed,” the director
said. “We’d prefer that be avoided, of course. The fewer people
involved in this the better. You will also have the use of a car, and
a room at Buswells Hotel when you’re in the city.”
   “Thank you, sir.”
   Haughey opened the file he had taken from the cabinet.
   “There’s one more thing you should be aware of.”
   He lifted an envelope from the file, gripping it by its corner.
   One end of it was a deep brownish red. Ryan took the envelope,
careful to avoid the stained portion. It had been cut open along
its top edge. He turned the envelope to read the words typed on
its face.
   Otto Skorzeny.
   Ryan said the name aloud.
   “You’ve heard of him?” Haughey asked.
   “Of course,” Ryan said, remembering images of the scarred
face in the society pages of the newspapers. Any soldier versed in
commando tactics knew of Skorzeny. The name was spoken with
reverence in military circles, regardless of the Austrian’s affiliations.
Officers marvelled at Skorzeny’s exploits as if recounting
the plot of some adventure novel. The rescue of Mussolini from
the mountaintop hotel that served as his prison stirred most conversation.
The daring of it, the audacity, landing gliders on the
Gran Sasso cliff edge and sweeping Il Duce away on the wind.
   Ryan slipped his fingers into the envelope and extracted the
sheet of paper, unfolded it. The red stain formed angel patterns
across the fabric of the page. He read the typewritten words.
   SS-Obersturmbannführer Skorzeny,
   We are coming for you.
   Await our call.
  “Has Skorzeny seen this?” Ryan asked.
   Fitzpatrick said, “Colonel Skorzeny has been made aware of
the message.”
   “Colonel Skorzeny and I will be attending a function in
Malahide in a few days,” Haughey said. “You will report to us
there with your findings. The director will give you the details.
Understood?”
   “Yes, Minister.”
   “Grand.” Haughey stood. He paused. “My tailor,” he said,
tearing a sheet from a notepad. He scribbled a name, address and
phone number. “Lawrence McClelland on Capel Street. Go and
see him, have him fit you up with something. Tell him to put it
on my account. Can’t be putting you in front of a man like Otto
Skorzeny wearing a suit like that.”
   Ryan dropped the bloody envelope on the desk and took the
details from Haughey. He kept his face expressionless. “Thank
you, Minister,” he said.
   Fitzpatrick ushered Ryan towards the door. As they went to
exit, Haughey called, “Is it true what I heard? That you fought
for the Brits during the Emergency?”
   Ryan stopped. “Yes, Minister.”
   Haughey let his gaze travel from Ryan’s shoes to his face in
one long distasteful stare. “Sort of young, weren’t you?”
   “I lied about my age.”
   “Hmm. I suppose that would explain your lack of judgement.”

Continues...

Excerpted from Ratlines by Stuart Neville Copyright © 2013 by Stuart Neville. Excerpted by permission of Soho Crime, a division of Random House, Inc.
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.

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Interviews & Essays

Stuart Neville interview for Barnes & Noble

With Emily St. John Mandel

Set during the weeks leading up to President John F. Kennedy's historic 1963 visit to Ireland, Irish author Stuart Neville's new novel Ratlines addresses a sordid era in Ireland's past that includes the harboring of Nazis after World War II. In this interview author and critic Emily St. John Mandel discusses with Stuart the difficulties associated with dredging up a sensitive history.

Emily St. John Mandel: I very much enjoyed your new novel. I wonder if you'd talk a bit about the way the book came about. Ratlines is concerned in part with a disturbing fact of Irish history, which is that a large number of ex-Nazis were welcomed into the country following the Second World War. How did you come across this story, and what inspired you to use it as the basis for a new book?

Stuart Neville: I'd always been aware that some Nazis had come to Ireland after the war, but I'd assumed it was only a small number, and they'd sneaked into the country under some veil of secrecy. It wasn't until I saw a documentary by Cathal O'Shannon that I discovered not only had these Nazis and collaborators come in greater numbers than I'd imagined, they had entered Ireland with the full knowledge and agreement of the government. The Department of Justice, who were responsible for immigration and asylum seekers, had gone so far as to help some Nazis create new identities.

The more I looked into the subject, the more I felt there was a story to be found within it. I started talking to my UK editor, Geoff Mulligan, about it in the summer of 2009. He was very supportive of the idea.

EM: Researching this story must have been quite interesting. What did the research entail?

SN: It's a very different kind of research than a novel set in the present day. With a contemporary story, it's more about how things work — how do you operate a particular gun, how would a crime scene be handled, how are the streets of a particular part of a city laid out? With a historical, albeit one that's not set very far in the past, it's more about how things feel, the societal realities of the time, the attitudes of the people. I was very fortunate to have a couple of people to call on who had been around Dublin in the early 60s. For example, in an early draft, I had described a female character as wearing an off-the-shoulder dress. Both of my friends flagged that up, explaining that such a dress would have been scandalous in 1963 Dublin. So it's not about dates, facts or figures; it's about much less tangible yet crucially important things.

EM: Your Irish protagonist in Ratlines, Lieutenant Albert Ryan, is looked upon with suspicion by some of his fellow citizens for having fought alongside the British in the Second World War. While someone in Ratlines makes the argument that Ireland's neutrality in that war was based in part on the country's economic situation at the time, there's also a suggestion that the Irish hatred of the British was such that fighting alongside them against Hitler's regime was unthinkable. Was that the case?

SN: It's a complex and thorny issue, and it has to be viewed in historical context. Some people, particularly Northern Irish unionists, will use wartime neutrality as a stick to beat the Irish state with, claiming that it amounted to a tacit support for Nazi Germany. That's untrue and unfair. It's important to remember that Ireland had gone through the First World War, the 1916 Uprising, the War of Independence, and the Irish Civil War, all in the space of a decade. Ireland simply didn't have the strength to go to war, regardless of the cause. When you add to that widespread resentment of the British, it's impossible to see a way for the Ireland's leaders to persuade the populace to take up arms alongside a country that was a mortal enemy just a few years before. Even so, something in the order of 100,000 Irish men volunteered to fight for the British Army, of which my protagonist Albert Ryan was one.

It's also worth remembering that Irish neutrality was weighted towards the Allies. For example, Axis airmen who crash landed on Irish soil were imprisoned until the end of the war, whereas Allied airmen were brought to the border with Northern Ireland and allowed to re-enter the fight.

EM: The character in Ratlines whom I found most chilling was the ex-Nazi Otto Skorzeny, and I was fascinated to discover after I read your novel that he was a real historical figure, a highly decorated Nazi officer who spent time in Ireland in the 1960s. Is there much in the way of a historical record of Skorzeny's activities in Ireland, or were you left mostly to make up details based on your knowledge of what kind of man Skorzeny was?

SN: Not a great deal is known about Skorzeny's time in Ireland outside of him being treated as a celebrity by the society pages of the newspapers; they saw him as a kind of Scarlet Pimpernel character. There are a few details that I've worked into the book, like his driving a white Mercedes sports car, and having a German housekeeper who was married to a local Irishman.

A huge mythos has built up around Skorzeny in the decades since World War II, and it's difficult to untangle the truth from the fiction. In my research, I discovered that he hadn't really earned his notoriety in the war, that it had more to do with SS propaganda than any true feats of daring. He lived off that reputation for the rest of his days, encouraging the more fanciful rumors about himself. Many WW2 enthusiasts and historians have taken the tall tales as fact, which I suspect pleased Skorzeny greatly.

EM: Another of your characters is the politician Charles Haughey, also a real man. Are there special challenges in including real people in a fictional work?

SN: There are legal issues with writing about someone like Charles Haughey, so a lot of care had to be taken in how he was portrayed. The biggest challenge, though, was keeping him grounded as a character. Both he and Otto Skorzeny were larger-than-life men, and it would have been easy to slip into caricature. I had to try and capture their bravura without it becoming cartoonish.

EM: I read recently that while Skorzeny's post-war career included time spent in the Middle East trying to undermine Israel, he did eventually provide intelligence to Mossad. My understanding is that originally he agreed to work with them on condition that his name be expunged from Simon Wiesenthal's list of Nazi war criminals and the warrant for his arrest cancelled, but that he eventually decided to cooperate with Mossad even though Wiesenthal declined this request. I found this fascinating, and I wonder if, having researched Skorzeny, you have any theories on what motivated him at that point—guilt, a desire for redemption, money, something else?

SN: Again, so much of what has been written about Skorzeny is based on the fictions he wove around himself, it's hard to know what to believe. I've also read that he worked for the American government recruiting ex-Nazi rocket scientists for the space program, and as an overseer for the Werewolf paramilitary group made up of former Nazi soldiers who planned to stir up a revolution in Allied-occupied Germany. The list of exploits goes on and on, with little real evidence to support them.

As for his motivation, I think much of it must have been vanity. He seemed to revel in his own notoriety, in being an important and infamous warrior.

EM: One of the things I like about your work is the attention you pay to the long-term effects of violence; not just on those at the receiving end, but on those who perpetrate it. I'm thinking especially of the protagonist of your first novel, The Ghosts of Belfast, who is haunted in a very literal sense by the people whose deaths he brought about in his paramilitary days. As a reader and as a writer, it sometimes seems to me that reading and writing about the aftermath of violence can be more interesting than reading and writing scenes where the violence is actually taking place. I wonder if you have any thoughts on this.

SN: I take that as a compliment, so thank you! My work is often perceived as being very violent, but in reality, there isn't a huge amount of graphic violence on the page. I'll give you an example: I did a library reading for my second novel, Collusion, choosing a scene where a killer enters a house and stabs a man in the heart. A lady came up to me afterwards and said she thought the scene was terribly, shockingly violent. I pointed out to her that out of the four pages I read, there was only one sentence that actually described an act of violence. The rest was the anticipation of violence, which is much more frightening than the act itself.

I deal a lot in moral ambiguity. No one, no matter how evil they seem to us, regards themself as a villain. Everyone is the hero of their own story. That's what allows me to write from the point of view of a character like Gerry Fegan. He lives with the aftermath of his own violence very day. It's an interesting place to write about.

EM: Do you find the especially violent scenes difficult to write?

SN: From a technical point of view, writing violent action can be tricky in terms of choreography, but I don't get queasy in the process. I tend to write about the things that frighten me. As strange as it may sound, I have a terrible fear of injury — even the idea of cutting my finger makes me shudder — so I often describe the physical effects of violence as a way of confronting that fear. I also write about things that make me angry. When I was writing the first novel, a local news team uncovered a dogfighting club just five miles from where I lived. It made me so mad, I ended up working it into the story.

EM: Did you always know you wanted to write thrillers? I'm curious about what drew you to the genre.

SN: It's odd, because I started out trying to write horror. I wrote a novel that was supposed to be a ghost story, but the more I wrote, the more it took on thriller elements. My first three novels are in that same grey area between thriller and horror that authors like Thomas Harris and John Connolly work in. It's a product of my reading; the first “grown up” books I read as a teenager were Stephen King, but I moved towards crime writers like James Ellroy and Ted Lewis as I got older. Ratlines is the first pure thriller I've written.

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2014

    Recommend for male readers

    I started to read this book and realized that it wasn't my kind of reading. Let my son read it, and he really liked it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2014

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  • Posted June 1, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Starting with the historical fact that many Nazi war criminals e

    Starting with the historical fact that many Nazi war criminals escaped after World War II with fortunes stolen from their victims and became ensconced in various countries like Franco’s Spain, Peron’s Argentina and anti-British Ireland, Stuart Neville has created a first-rate mystery. The protagonist is a Lieutenant in the Directorate of Intelligence, Albert Ryan, who lied about his age to enlist in the British army and fought in the European theater, Egypt and Korea before returning home.

    Ryan is asked at the behest of the Minister of Justice to investigate the murder of a German national, weeks before a pending visit by Pres. John F. Kennedy because he fears the publicity might force cancellation of the trip. The authorities are desirous of hiding the fact that the country is providing sanctuary to a bunch of Nazis. Ryan’s efforts become more complicated than a mere murder investigation, and thereby hangs one helluva tale.

    The title refers to escape routes by which Nazis were able to travel, avoiding detection, and the methods used to finance their travels to and establishment in new locations. While based on historical fact, more important is the plot, which twists and turns in wholly unexpected directions. And the character study of Ryan is deep and penetrating. Another top-notch novel from this author, and highly recommended.

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  • Posted May 6, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Another great book from Stuart Neville. I fell in love with the

    Another great book from Stuart Neville. I fell in love with the Ghosts of Belfast and never looked back. I love the mystery and I have learned a lot about the history of the time period as well. I will be looking for other books now that deal with that time because I would like to learn more. Give this author a chance to pull you into his world - you will not be sorry! Not for the faint of heart.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2013

    The author states this is fiction but it reads like it very well

    The author states this is fiction but it reads like it very well good have been true. If you are a fan of Irish writers, you will enjoy it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    This is my first bood to read of Stuart Neville and I will be re

    This is my first bood to read of Stuart Neville and I will be reading more ofhis books. This is well written and the characters are interesting. If you havent read his books this is a good one to start.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2013

    great

    well written

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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