The Ghosts of Belfast (published in the UK as The Twelve) is a revenge novel, with Gerry Fegan seeking some sort of redemption for the deaths and pain he has caused. It is strange to say that a book this dark, filled with violence and death, can be considered an enjoyable read. Yet I found it a compelling read. Even though it is somewhat out of my comfort zone, I didn't want to put it down. One of the downers of the novel is that there are few if any characters that the reader can like. I could have some sympathy with the protagonist, and that is pretty much necessary to any enjoyment of the novel.
There is a very good overview and review of this book at SHOTS Crime and Thriller Ezine by Ruth Dudley Edwards, a historian and author of non-fiction books and crime novels.
Would I recommend this book? If the violence and dark tone doesn't bother you, and if you are interested in a view of life in post-Troubles Northern Ireland, then yes.
I am including quotes from this review at The Guardian because I think it best describes the negatives and positives of the book, for prospective readers:
The Twelve is a brilliant thriller: unbearably tense, stomach-churningly frightening. Fegan and his nemesis, the government double agent Davy Campbell, are magnificent creations: not sympathetic, but never wholly repugnant. And just as haunting as Fegan's apparitions are Neville's stunning reimaginings of the darkest atrocities: the bombs, the beatings, the torture, the point-blank murders. Then there's the farm in south Armagh, setting for the novel's grisly climax, presided over by the almost mythically violent Bull O'Kane, the last bastion of the old guard, unchanged, impenetrable, rooted in the past.
It is impressive indeed to create an entertainment out of such material, but more than that, Neville has boldly exposed post-ceasefire Northern Ireland as a confused, contradictory place, a country trying to carve out a future amid a peace recognised by the populace as hypocritical, but accepted as better than the alternative. This is the best fictional representation of the Troubles I have come across, a future classic of its time. Stuart Neville has finally given Northern Ireland the novel its singular history deserves.You will note below that this is the first book in a series called the Jack Lennon Investigations. This book seems more like a prequel, since in this book Jack Lennon is a minor character.
Publisher: Soho Press, 2009
Length: 326 pages
Series: Jack Lennon Investigations #1
Setting: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Source: I purchased this book.