The Ghosts of Belfast is a solid three star action book. This isn’t exactly a mystery or a thriller although there is an interesting paranormal element that is unusual for a novel of this type and it is handled well.
The story is set in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Troubles from the 1970’s and 1980’s have passed and a delicate peace has been established with a provisional government in place comprised of Republicans, Loyalists, Ulsterman and Brits. Many of the former Irish Republican Army heavies are in the position of having to establish new lives and find new ways of making a living as well as dealing with their pasts.
One of these is Gerry Fegan. He was a hired killer for the IRA, spent a considerable amount of time in prison and is considered mad (as in crazy) as he sits in the pub, drinking himself to death and speaking to people no one can see. Those unknown ghosts are the spirits of the people that Gerry has killed during the heady days of The Troubles and they are directing him to kill those responsible for ordering their deaths.
The action expands from there as Gerry goes about tracking down and taking out each responsible party. As he does so, each ghost disappears and he is left with some measure of peace. There are detailed explanations about what happened to those involved in the original killings so the reader is never left wondering how these acts came to pass.
In a parallel story line, there are two agents that have been planted by the British government within the IRA. One is an attorney for what are now, politicians in the provisional government. The other has worked as a stand over man and hired killer. Their paths eventually intersect with Gerry’s to bring the whole book together.
There are some interesting concepts in the book. One centers around the idea of what happens to people who were once considered freedom fighters but who now have been redefined as domestic terrorists. Another concerns what happens to agents who have been left in place too long. What happens to people who fought for a cause in which their families and other innocents were caught up in and at times destroyed by the conflict? Finally, do freedom fighters eventually become merely organized criminal enterprises and gangsters? Do they ever put down their guns?
It’s unusual to have these types of questions floating around in what is essentially an action novel. The end is wrapped up satisfactorily while leaving room for the author to write more follow up stories incorporating some of the characters who are left standing. While not ultra-violent, there is a significant amount of graphic violence in the novel as well as a graphic dog fighting scene.
Action fans will enjoy this book. Those interested in politics will get something out of it too. This is Belfast post-Troubles so don’t look for Catholics and Protestants battling it out on the Falls Road. And there is a cameo of the Mull of Kintyre that will have you humming the song in your head.