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The Ghosts of Belfast

(Jack Lennon #1)

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  6,575 ratings  ·  814 reviews
Sooner or later, everybody pays.

Gerry Fegan, a former paramilitary contract killer, is haunted by the ghosts of the 12 people he has slaughtered. Every night, on the point of losing his mind, he drowns their screams in drink. His solution is to kill those who engineered their deaths.

From the greedy politicians to the corrupt security forces, the str
Kindle Edition, 337 pages
Published 2009 by Soho
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  6,575 ratings  ·  814 reviews

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As children we’re all told that there are no such thing as ghosts. However, when a former hitman for the IRA starts seeing the victims of his murders and seeking revenge for them, it doesn’t much matter whether they’re real or not because if he decides that someone is responsible for their demise, that person will get a chance to investigate the after-life first hand in the very near future.

Gerry Fegan was once a feared and respected killer for the Irish cause, but while serving a lo
4 1/2

This is the longest review I've ever written, and most isn't about the book itself.

The Ghosts of Belfast review, Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

First-novel thriller by Stuart Neville, won many awards and plaudits. Would have finished it in two days, but late the second night, maybe 40 pages to go, just wasn’t able to handle those pages, couldn’t bear to continue reading at that hour, mostly because of the presentiment of a horribly brutal conclusion. After sleeping on it, and in the/>The/>This
A very well done debut.
With praise from the likes of James Ellroy on the cover you couldn't go wrong.
He was right it does hooks you in also it has a twist of supernatural. There are twelve ghosts, there was twelve innocents that died over a number of years at the hands of politicians and group members. There was battles and fighting for independence, but the twelve were innocent bystanders that got caught in the trail of fire. One by one the ghosts of the dead want revenge delivered and t
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hardboiled fans, esp. with an Irish flavor
Recommended to Ed by: Picked up at the library
This gritty, haunted crime novel is one of the best debuts I've read in a long time. Gerry Fegan, an ace enforcer in the IRA does a 12-stint prison stint before he's released to live with the twelve "ghosts" of his murder victims. What impresses me is the deft way the supernatural element is stitched into the narrative's fabric. Perhaps going mad, Fegan feels driven to serve as the twelve's avenger of the higher ups who ordered their hits. He performs his grisly mission in efficient but violent ...more
James Thane
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stuart Neville, who formerly worked as a hand double for a "well-known Irish comedian," has written a brilliant, atmospheric first novel set against the continuing "troubles" in Northern Ireland.

In the public eye at least, the men who fought the brutal battles of the long struggle have now given way to the politicians and peace is in the wind. But behind the scenes there are still scores to be settled and discipline to be maintained. Additionally, some of the men who might have once been ideali
Jan 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Especially for readers of crime, noir, Irish fiction,
Recommended to Lawyer by: A Barnes & Noble Nook Find of the Day
Stewart Neville's The Ghosts of Belfast: One Paddy's Lamentation

"I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

From Easter, 1916, William Butler Yeats

Mar 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, favorites, 2014-trl
4.5 Stars Rounded up as a very impressive Debut!

Gritty, dark, brutal...... I think you get the gist of the content AND authentic language too, so not for those wanting a fluffy read... they can "Away and shite"

Set post Good Friday agreement in Belfast we first come across one Gerry Fegan, an ex-paramilitary released from the Maze prison over a decade before now turned to drink & down the slippery slope for the sins of his past, in a bar, shouting at the ghosts of his
Andi Marquette
I have a story about this book. I was visiting NYC recently, and was on my way to dinner in Brooklyn with a comrade. We had parked the car and we were going to walk the couple of blocks to the restaurant. On that walk, I stopped at a brownstone because whoever lived at this particular house had put 3 books outside by the small wrought iron fence that served as a boundary between it and the public sidewalk. In NYC (and probably lots of other cities), when people want to get rid of things -- i.e., ...more
Oct 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Audiobook: Finally, a book in which the violence serves the story instead of the opposite.This is the first in a series of novels that portray Belfast and Northern Ireland following the peace accords, which left a lot of violent men with little to do and changing loyalties. Gerry Fegan had been an enforcer for one of the groups of thugs ostensibly battling the British. Now beset by guilt for those he had killed, he’s surrounded by imaginary “followers” representing each of the twelve he had kill ...more
What we humans do to one another….

“If there’s peace, if it’s really over, then what use are we?” asks a fellow prisoner of Gerry Fegan, an IRA foot soldier, serving his time in the Maze prison. Both Fegan and the other man know that when all of the political parties agree to a peace process, they will be released, and with that, they’ll have to create new selves and to dissolve whatever their past was.

But how do you “un-become” what you had been: a terrorist, a freedom fighter, a
May 02, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Some people like to read about travel and some people like to read about violence. Some people like romance and some people like torture. Neville excels in writing about torture and violence and has used the Irish conflict as his rationale. The book doesn’t pretend to deal with the complexities of the Irish situation, nor does it pretend to create characters one cares for (even the most positive reviews on Amazon pointed that out). For people who seek non-stop action with lots of blood (teeth ta ...more
Daniel Sevitt
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: part-of-a-series
Pleasingly grisly revenge thriller set in Northern Ireland after the Good Friday agreement. There were some neat narrative notions which raised this above the commonplace and the action sequences were satisfyingly executed. A solid and entertaining read.
Oct 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hard men, Irish
This is a violent, bloody novel where the violence and bloodshed actually serves a purpose, rather than just trying to shock the reader. It's a revenge story, a political thriller, and a tale of redemption, with the main character being a former IRA thug who's now trying to atone for his past crimes. His atonement, however, consists of killing a lot more people, because the ghosts of his former victims won't leave him alone until he does.

The question of whether the ghosts are real or
Jul 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This debut from Neville is one of the best crime fiction novels I have read in a long time. Smart, tough characters and an interesting premise are handled brilliantly by Neville, who writes dialogue with the best of them. This book had me hooked from beginning to end. The violence was unflinching and added a powerful punch to the narrative. The details of Northern Ireland's social and political struggles never suffocated the story and served as an important backdrop for the motivations of many o ...more
Nick Davies
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, favourites
Having read a couple of Stuart Neville's novels before, I knew what to expect with regards the violent visceral nature of his books. I had been slightly disappointed by 'Ratlines' and 'Collusion' - they went a little over the top with the dark people and dark acts to the extent that I began not to care about what was happening - but having heard that this debut novel was perhaps better than what followed, I wanted to give it a try.

I am glad I did - the grim Irish setting and the styl
Mar 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
One of the many benefits of Goodreads membership is that you are free to discover authors and books that take you outside of your comfort zone, if you so choose. Reading Stuart Neville's first thriller/crime novel certainly does that in spades! I chose this book for a variety of reasons. It has multiple award nominations for a first novel, glowing reviews from authors I admire and Goodread friends whose opinions I respect. Plus, I needed a book set in Ireland for a challenge. This is set in post ...more
Oct 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
Gerry Fegan, a former IRA hit man, has finally been paroled but drinks heavily because he is haunted by the ghosts of the 12 people he killed. He finally embarks on a mission to kill the men who gave him his orders to escape his demons; the book is cleverly separated into chapters, starting with 12 and reducing as he kills off those in the militant IRA underworld, who believe he is a babbling, useless drunk and a liability to their movement. Somewhat incongruent with the rest of the story, Fegan ...more
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, noir
I had written a nice little review for this one but it got swallowed by the ether...

Anyway, what I wanted to say was this was a good story about a killer for the IRA and how he tries to make it up to the people he killed. Great noir, recommended!

I just noticed that this is called "Jack Lennon Investigations #1" but I have no clue who Jack Lennon is. He wasn't really part of this story at all. I can't even place him. Hmmm...
Book Addict Shaun
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So my first book read for #IrishFictionFortnight and what a book to pick. I don't really feel qualified enough to comment on the subject matter, given that I don't know all that much about The Troubles, one person that does however is Stuart Neville and he has used that knowledge to create a truly authentic story, one that I feel like I have lived alongside our main character, and one that will probably stick in my mind for a long time. This is maybe the third or fourth book I've read with a sto ...more
Mal Warwick
Apr 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Grim Story of War and Betrayal in Northern Ireland

You may never have read a murder mystery like this one. The protagonist, Gerry Fegan, is a former hit man for the IRA responsible for the deaths of twelve people (the “ghosts” of the title), and it’s never much of a mystery when he begins killing again. The mystery lies deeper, somewhere in the vicinity of his stunted family life and the treacherous relationships among the others in his violence-prone faction.

As Fegan reflect
Gloria Feit
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The "Troubles" in Northern Ireland have spawned many novels, but none as intense and different as Ghosts. Based on the past efforts of Republicans to force unification with Eire and the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in the North, the novel focuses on the torment of Gerry Fegan who has, as an assassin on orders from above, killed a dozen victims, some of whom were innocent, two of whom he liquidated while on a furlough from prison to attend his mother's funeral.

After serving
Dec 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I'm not entirely sure how I've gone so long without reading this book or knowing about this author. This is wonderful noir fiction set in post-Troubles Ireland and it will quietly remind you again and again how awful things were before the Good Friday peace accord. No one's hands are clean. We so often think only of Muslim extremists when we think of terrorism and forget Oklahoma City and the IRA and the white supremacist movements. We don't have a clue about colonialism (neo- or not). Imperiali ...more
Mohammed Abdi Osman
This is easily the best crime novel debut i have read in years. Brutal, emotional strong and very believable story. The Northern Ireland setting, troubles was well used. Gerry Fegan was a very strong character, he was fascinating to read about in a mad, scary way. The real world darkness, evil of many of the shady characters in the novel is much darker read than gory, not too real serial murder novels.

On the minus side i would say the action or violent scenes could have been written
Nov 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, mystery-irish
This strangely compelling book concerns a man named Gerry Fegan who was involed in the troubles and is, perhaps, haunted by the ghosts of twelve people he is responisble for killing.

And they are not nice ghosts. They want revenge.

This book is violent (and if you like dogs it does have dog fighting), yet the violence is not Hollywood violence, even though you can almost see Gabriel Byrne in the part.

In short, the book is about blood debt and forgiveness.
Kostas Kanellopoulos
Jack Lennon Investigation conclusion = he is not in this book
Richard White
Good insight into the "troubles" in Northern Ireland. Would recommend .
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First that I have read Stuart Neville and certainly was not disappointed. Very good novel based on the “troubles” in Ireland ten years previous, and the subsequent affairs of certain individuals later. Raw and direct is how this novel is written, and will not fail to entertain you.
Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book for so many reasons but let me start at the end. (view spoiler) ...more
Rob Kitchin
Aug 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Twelve has attracted a lot of praise for its gritty portrayal of post-conflict Northern Ireland. And the praise is well merited. The writing is taught and economical, with each chapter crafted like a toned short story and the pages just kept turning. Neville balances excellent characterization with a deep appreciation of the politics, landscape and legacy of The Troubles; how the past casts a shadow of violence and distrust that the light of democratic politics can never fully erase; how whi ...more
Joe Kraus
Apr 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hardboiled-noir
At one point, our sort-of heroine, Marie McKenna, asks our hero (as much a hero an emotionally ill serial killer can be), Gerry Fegan, “You can’t choose the places you don’t belong, but what if the places you don’t belong are only ones left to you?”

It’s a great question, put in memorable noir elegance, and much of this novel sets out to answer it. Gerry is haunted, literally, by the ghosts of the people he killed when he was one of the IRA’s top hard men, and he understands them as d
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I have been a musician, a composer, a teacher, a salesman, a film extra, a baker and a hand double for a well known Irish comedian, but I'm currently a partner in a successful multimedia design business in the wilds of Northern Ireland.

I have published short stories in Thuglit, Electric Spec and Every Day Fiction. THE TWELVE is my first novel, and will be published in the UK and Common

Other books in the series

Jack Lennon (4 books)
  • Collusion (Jack Lennon Investigations #2)
  • Stolen Souls (Jack Lennon Investigations #3)
  • The Final Silence (Jack Lennon #4)
“Hate is a terrible thing. It's a wasteful, stupid emotion. You can hate someone with all your heart, but it'll never do them a bit of harm. The only person it hurts is you. You can spend your days hating, letting it eat away at you, and the person you hate will go on living just the same. So, what's the point?” 26 likes
“You can't choose where you belong, and where you don't. But what if the place you don't belong is the only place you have left?” 15 likes
More quotes…