Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Ghosts of Belfast

The Ghosts of Belfast
The Jack Lennon Novels, Book #1
by Stuart Neville
narrated by Gerard Doyle
Ⓟ 2009, Audible, Inc.
11.00 hours

Gerry Fegan is a man haunted by ghosts. As a foot soldier in the strife between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Gerry was a hit man for Northern Ireland's interests, or more accurately, for the men who sought to exploit The Troubles for their own personal gains. Now, decades after the tensions have nominally ceased and the Good Friday Accords have set Ireland on the path toward a more peaceable future, the ghosts of twelve of Gerry's victims have come back. Gerry himself has spent time in prison for his crimes and only wants to be left alone in peace; but the ghosts won't let him be. "Everybody pays," so says the mother of one of Gerry's victims. This becomes the theme of the vendetta tale as Gerry seeks to expunge the curse: The ghosts will leave, but only after Gerry kills the men ultimately responsible for the each of the ghost's respective deaths.

Stuart Doyle creates an immediately sympathetic character in Gerry Fagen. At once both the cold and crazy killer and, a man who seeks the peace of a good night's sleep, Gerry must put past matters to rest before he can face an uncertain future. Remaking himself, becoming the better man, is a process that requires some dirty work before absolution and progress can be made. In this, Gerry Fagen becomes a metaphor for Stormont (the Northern Ireland Parliament) in that Stormont, even as they eagerly race forward toward the economic promises of the future, seeks to shed it violent past; but must deal with political "necessities." The Ghosts of Belfast is about Gerry and Stormont: their pasts, their presents and their hopeful futures.

The Ghosts of Belfast is Irish Noir with all the implied tragedy, grittiness and heart. This is the story of hard men doing hard things in hard times and none of it is pretty; and all of it is believably portrayed. The writing is suspenseful and even breathtaking in parts, perhaps not so much in the language used but in the emotions evoked.

The Ghosts of Belfast is graphic in its violence; but never gratuitous given the nature of the story. There is a dogfighting scene that may seem superfluous and a bit too intense for some; but it works, especially if one views it as another metaphor for Gerry and Northern Ireland.

Gerard Doyle is the voice of Irish Noir and exceptionally good in The Ghosts of Belfast. Some lines are delivered in chilling softness and others in aggressive clarity that all deliver the moment at hand with the tension, tenderness and/or suffering as the story's scenes dictate. The narrator conveys the mood and the characters with astuteness and skill, and there is no sense anywhere throughout the novel that Gerard Doyle misinterpreted the intent of the story or a line of dialogue. All characters are given enough of a distinction so that there no doubt as to who might be speaking in any given dialogue; and the females are all respectfully represented - without any penchant to delivering their voices in a falsetto. If there's any quibble at all, it has nothing to do with the narrator's performance per se - only that there was what sounded like a bit of booth noise a couple of times; but it was very subtle and most listeners will not notice it.

Other Stuff: The Ghosts of Belfast (Jack Lennon Novels, Book #1; by Stuart Neville; narrated by Gerard Doyle) qualifies for:

I purchased a digital dnload copy of The Ghosts of Belfast (Jack Lennon Novels, Book #1; by Stuart Neville; narrated by Gerard Doyle) from Audible, Inc. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

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