Saturday, 10 March 2012

Review - Stolen Souls, Stuart Neville

Stolen Souls is the third novel from Stuart Neville to feature Jack Lennon. It is set in post-conflict North of Ireland, theoretically at peace but with members of paramilitary organizations continuing with various criminal enterprises. The previous books in the series dealt mainly with the aftermath and consequences of various IRA actions, but in Stolen Souls the subject matter is different, dealing with trafficking of prostitutes by Eastern European gangsters and their collaboration with “loyalist” paramilitaries. Their activities intersect with a serial killer from a fundamentalist Protestant background, with plenty of problems for all concerned.

As you might expect from this description, the style of these books is “noir”; most of the characters are damaged or flawed, with little hope of redemption, and the prose fits this approach. Jack Lennon, as the hero of sorts, shares these characteristics, but at least is trying to do the right thing, even if the right thing is often wrong. There are emerging signs that his young daughter has visions of what is happening elsewhere, and a slowly building personal relationship continues in the background along with a few hints as to future plotlines. Several characters carry over from the previous books, and this is a series which building successfully and will no doubt continue to do so. For this reason, I would recommend starting with the first book in the series (The Twelve –published in the US as The Ghosts of Belfast) before proceeding to Collusion and finally Stolen Souls.

Stolen Souls is a good, fast paced read. The characters are convincing and there are plenty of unexpected twists on the way. The book is set predominantly in South Belfast (around Queen’s University) and in the East of the city, areas which I know well, and the atmosphere and details (as I would expect) are largely correct. There is plenty of suspense and the outcome is always in doubt until the very end. There is violence, drug use, and prostitution, but both the sex and violence are not described in an overly graphic way and Neville relies on his skill as a writer to build the tension rather than unnecessary gore to shock. This is the approach which I prefer, and requires more talent from the author. So overall, a good quick read, not requiring too much thought and to be enjoyed and admired for what it is. Definitely a series to follow for those who like this genre.

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