One of my favorite novels of the last few years was Stuart Neville's brilliant debut novel, The Ghosts of Belfast, a dark, violent and moody tale of life in Northern Ireland in the wake of "The Troubles." This sequel picks up the tale a bit down the road, but many of the same characters appear and issues raised in the first book are still playing out here.
Although the conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland may be officially over, there's certainly no such thing as peace in the land. Violent men still have scores to settle and innocent people are still getting caught in the crossfire.
At the center of this novel is Detective Inspector Jack Lennon of the Ulster police force. Lennon, a Catholic, was disowned by his family after joining the force even though he made what many would think was a compelling argument for doing so: How could the Catholics continue to complain that they were being persecuted by the police unless and until at least some of them were willing to join the force and attempt to moderate it?
Two people central to Jack's life get caught up in the effort by a number of vicious men to settle old scores. Jack is determined to protect them at any cost, even if it means defying his bosses, perhaps losing his job and maybe even sacrificing his own life. Beyond that, it's very difficult to say much more about the plot because it would spoil the suspense of this book and would convey too much information about The Ghosts of Belfast for those who haven't had the pleasure of reading it yet.
Suffice it to say that this is an excellent book that should appeal to any fan of crime fiction who likes his or her action in the noirish vein and who might be looking for a book placed in an excellently-rendered setting. Neville obviously knows the landscape very well, both physically and psychologically. These are great characters in a well-told story, but I would encourage anyone thinking about reading it to read Ghosts first. After reading this one, you will almost certainly want to, and reading the two in order will save you from knowing a lot of spoilers.