THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST
$14.00 trade paper, available now
Rating: 4.5* of five
The Publisher Says: Sooner or later, everybody pays.
Gerry Fegan, a former paramilitary contract killer, is haunted by the ghosts of the 12 people he has slaughtered. Every night, on the point of losing his mind, he drowns their screams in drink. His solution is to kill those who engineered their deaths.
From the greedy politicians to the corrupt security forces, the street thugs to the complacent bystanders who let it happen, all are called to account. But when Fegan's vendetta threatens to derail a hard-won truce and destabilise the government, old comrades and enemies alike want him dead.
Winner of the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Thriller.
My Review: First, read this:
“Hate's a terrible thing. It's a wasteful, stupid emotion. You can hate someone with all your heart, but it'll never do them a bit of harm. The only person it hurts is you. You can spend your days hating, letting it eat away at you, and the person you hate will go on living just the same. So what's the point?”
That's the logical, and irrefutable, argument against hate. But there's no chance humans will give up hating. It's an addictive drug, a high that can only be bested by the Absolute Assurance that YOU ARE RIGHT, They are Wrong, and therefore they deserve _____. Ireland's been in the toils of both, Hate and Rightness, for centuries. They've made it the basis for their identity as a nation. It ain't goin' nowhere.
That grim prognostication delivered, the story we're told in this (debut!) novel is based around a single person's efforts to mitigate the toll Hate takes on society as a whole. That he's chosen, um, a counter-productive solution to the problem is...kind of the core of the read. The way there's no out for a person whose persona is warped by war, by violent and utterly anti-social normative training, whose core is eaten out to nothingness by hatred. That is who such a one will be always. And Gerry Fegan is a stone-cold killer, a person whose life is without the sense of remorse that a normal person would have for depriving others of their entire futures.
Which is why they haunt him. Their ghosts won't let him sleep, or think, or be normal.
Discussions of Gerry's ghosts' reality are circular. Real? Imaginary? Guilt phantasms? Doesn't matter. Gerry is the person he's been made into. The ghosts demand something be done to balance the scales of their lost futures. And Gerry being their instrument means that something will be murderous.
This is a huge problem for the world. Men and women like Gerry exist all over the globe, and they represent a ticking time-bomb of violence and chaos in every place they exist. Conflicts based on such idiotic things as religion and ethnicity and national identity are going to sink any "peace process" that ever gets past the hot-air stage. People like these need their Hate-hit to feel good. Feeling good, about yourself, about your superior place in the world, is fundamental to humans' ability to thrive. In far too many cases, that represents itself as Hate for Others. Nothing effective has ever been done about that...can anything effective ever be done about it? Don't look at Ireland. It's a pink-skinned Rwanda.
And this novel, this brilliant noir tale of revenge if not exactly redemption, brings that to its...conclusion is the wrong word. "Stopping place" in the sense of "the buck stops here" is permaybehaps closer. The man Gerry, expiating his sins, commits others...but do they count as sins? They're balancing scales, not to say that the choice of method is one I approve of. But he's made some attempt to redress the vile acts he's committed. By committing others.
The Mahatma was correct. The world continues to ignore him, and the cycle of violence continues to spiral ever downward into chaos.
Finally, let me say that this book's the first in a series called "Jack Lennon Investigations." This will bumfuzzle most readers. "Who the hell's Jack Lennon?" I hear you ask. Well...don't worry your pretty little head about it is my response. Read Collusion and don't fuss. It's well worth your eyeblinks, just as this delight of a violent, nihilistic noir read is.