Detective Inspector Jack Lennon of the Belfast Police has watched the developing cooperation between Northern Ireland’s Loyalist gangs and immigrant Lithuanian criminals with unease. The Lithuanians traffic women from Eastern Europe and Asia for the Loyalists’ brothels, and they’re all making big money in spite of the recession that has stopped Northern Ireland’s peace boom in its tracks. Lennon has a more intimate knowledge of the city’s brothels than he’ll ever admit, but the surge in trafficked girls makes him question his lifestyle, especially considering he has his daughter, Ellen, to care for now.Sounds like a cracker. Mind you, I was putting the final proofs for DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS to bed this week, and while proofing Neville’s contribution, a short story entitled ‘The Craftsman’, it struck me that, as propulsive as he is as a thriller writer, it’s in the quieter moments, the emotional connections, that Neville truly excels. I can’t say much more than that or I’ll spoil the story; suffice to say that beneath the bearded, hard-boiled exterior Neville presents to the world, there lurks the soul of a poet. And, if the subtleties that underpin ‘The Craftsman’ is a measure of how Neville has developed as a writer since the publication of COLLUSION, then STOLEN SOULS promises to outstrip his previous novels by some distance. It’s a tantalising prospect.
When a Lithuanian trafficker turns up dead on Christmas Eve with a shard of glass embedded in his throat, Lennon’s plans to spend the holiday with Ellen are put in jeopardy. The dead man was the younger brother of a ruthless Lithuanian crime boss, Arturas Strazdas, and the young Ukrainian woman who killed him has escaped her captors. Now Strazdas holds the Loyalists responsible and won’t let up until everyone involved has paid. A bloody gang war erupts across the city.
Meanwhile, somewhere in Belfast, Galya, the Ukrainian girl, is running for her life, alone and scared, clinging to the darkest corners as the frozen streets empty for the holiday. Galya’s captors told her how the police deal with illegal immigrants, that she is a criminal in a foreign land, and the law will not help her. And now she is also a murderer. She cannot be discovered by anyone, not the cops, not the gang who held her prisoner. There is only one person she can go to: a man she met on her first day as a prostitute, a friend who gave her a crucifix and an address to run to if she ever got away. He’d saved four prostitutes before her, he’s told her, and she can be his fifth. But when Galya arrives at the address, she finds something more evil than she had ever imagined.
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.
Friday, April 15, 2011
It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Soul
It won’t be published until October, but already Stuart Neville’s STOLEN SOULS is shaping up to be one of the novels to watch out for in 2011. The winner of the LA Times’ Mystery / Thriller award in 2009 with his debut THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST, and in the running for the same gong this year for COLLUSION, Neville’s third novel comes freighted with expectation. Mind you, the blurb elves suggest that STOLEN SOULS will deliver. To wit: