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"'The Irish have long memories,' Rabbi Hempel said. 'I have lived in Ireland for more than ten years, and this was my first understanding of its people. Were it not so, perhaps Britain might have had another ally against the Germans. Instead, Ireland sat on its hands and watched as Europe burned.'"
Stuart Neville's new standalone, Ratlines (Soho Crime, $26.95, signing Jan. 4, 2013 at noon) deals very much with long Irish memories. Its 1963, and for the first time ever, a sitting President of the United States is about to come to Ireland, so the government is really sensitive to the possibility of any scandal that might jeopardize such a momentous occasion.
But Ireland had been neutral during The Emergency, as they called WWII, and now were turning a blind eye to some of the more unsavory immigrants from that time. Lieutenant Albert Ryan had fought with the British against the Nazis, and works for the Directorate of Intelligence. When a German is found dead, the third such foreigner to be murdered within just a few days, Ryan is assigned to stop the killings before the truth is exposed: that they were all Nazis who had been granted asylum.
Ryan's good at his job, and discovers quickly that these murdered men were all linked to Colonel Otto Skorzeny, one of Hitler's favored commandos, the man who daringly saved Mussolini.
"Ryan still dreamed of them. Not as often as he used to, but sometimes. He thanked God he had not entered the camps. The stories travelled across Europe's wastelands, about the living skeletons, the mass graves, the bodies stacked high, half burned, half buried.
"Men like Skorzeny had done that. Willingly.
"And now Ryan was protecting them."
What happens throughout Ratlines is noir at its finest. Stuart Neville has the great talent to create very real characters, to make them real enough to care about, and then he runs them through hell. With an economy of words and a deft touch for imagery, Neville takes you deep into his world and along a journey where the cost of survival is incredibly high. Ratlines had me twitching to read the last page, just to see what happens.
This is not a fun, light, breezy read. Ratlines is for people who are willing to walk on the dark side of life, to go along on an inexorable journey, possibly toward redemption and justice, but definitely toward evening the score. Bad things happen and its Stuart Neville's incredible talent that keeps you wound into the story all the way to the end. If you're a fan of noir, this is the book of the year.— Fran
Ireland 1963. As the Irish people prepare to welcome President John F. Kennedy to the land of his ancestors, a German national is murdered in a seaside guesthouse. Lieutenant Albert Ryan, Directorate of Intelligence, is ordered to investigate. The German is the third foreigner to die within a few days, and Minister for Justice Charles Haughey wants the killing to end lest a shameful secret be exposed: the dead men were all Nazis granted asylum by the Irish government in the years following World War II.
A note from the killers is found on the dead German's corpse, addressed to Colonel Otto Skorzeny, Hitler's favorite commando, once called the most dangerous man in Europe. The note simply says: "We are coming for you."
As Albert Ryan digs deeper into the case he discovers a network of former Nazis and collaborators, all presided over by Skorzeny from his country estate outside Dublin. When Ryan closes in on the killers, his loyalty is torn between country and conscience. Why must he protect the very people he fought against twenty years before? Ryan learns that Skorzeny might be a dangerous ally, but he is a deadly enemy.
About the Author
Stuart Neville is the author of the Belfast Trilogy, which includes Collusion, Stolen Souls, and The Ghosts of Belfast, winner of the 2010 LA Times Book Prize and the Spinetingler Award for Best First Novel, and a finalist for the Macavity Award, the Barry Award, and Anthony Award for Best First Novel. He lives in Armagh, Northern Ireland.
A Guardian (UK) Best Thriller of 2013
A St. Louis Post-Dispatch Best Book of 2013
Praise for Ratlines
"Ratlines is a belter: fast, furious, bloody and good."
—Ian Rankin, New York Times bestselling author of Exit Music
"Ratlines is a brash and exciting thriller, full of hairpin turns and espionage. Even the film "Dr. No" makes an appearance, appropriate for a book that tries to create a James Bond with a lilt instead of a Connery-style brogue."
—The Christian Science Monitor
"The current master of neo-noir detective fiction."
"The moral ambiguities touch everyone.... This is complex fiction with a disturbing ring of truth."
"The plot reminds me of Jack Higgins at his very best.... This is a first-rate story that seizes the imagination, and never lets go."
—Daily Mail (UK)
"The author's clean, direct prose, well-utilised research, intricate plotting and deep characterisation all add up to a seriously impressive piece of crime fiction, that lingers long in the memory."
—The Independent (UK)
"Neville's writing is agile and atmospheric...creating a memorable monster in slippery, belligerent Haughey."
—The Guardian (UK)
"A Nazi-hunting thriller writhing with double and triple-crosses and a supremely colourful cast."
“Thrilling.... Readers will hope to see more of Ryan, a formidable yet damaged hero."
—Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
"Set in a time when James Bond was becoming popular, Neville's lean, mean prose tells a brutal story that's the opposite of 007...but no less captivating."
“The setup is real-life history and the rest is ‘just a story.’ But what a story it is!”
"Neville writes wonderfully, setting the scene in precise, economical prose; pitting well-defined, historically inspired characters in opposition to each other; and tangling the plotlines tantalizingly... With a character this strong, we want to see him fight to the finish."
"The best thrillers usually have the protagonist in a moral dilemma, and the dilemma here is a doozy… A brilliant character study of a man of real honour."
—The Globe and Mail
"[Ratlines] is the real goods....A gripping and violent narrative."
“There is a significant breadth and depth to the historical context that gives the story real heft...[Ratlines] is a powerful thriller which provides the requisite thrills and spills, but also a thought-provoking exploration of our understanding of who we really are.”
"[A] gripping mix of real-life history and compelling fictional characters."
—Stop You're Killing Me
“The first rule in getting a historical thriller right: characters first, historical details second. Stuart Neville aces it all. Grade: A.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Ratlines superbly and cleverly tells the story of a street-smart man who must find justice for those without voices, while playing various agencies against each other. Above all, he must survive being cast as a scapegoat and pawn."
—Barbara Tom, The Oregonian
"By the time I finished it, I was exhausted. I couldn’t put it down."
—Toronto Life Magazine
“This guy is a special talent.”
—The Irish Voice
"Well researched and extremely intriguing—all lovers of the historical and suspense genres will be absolutely blown away."
"Neville knows how to let a story rip with the best of them."
“Neville’s combination of smartly conceived characters, high-strung tension, and moral quandaries makes Ratlines a pell-mell-paced treat.”
—The Rap Sheet
—The Galway Advertiser
“Stuart Neville’s books just get better and better and Ratlines is simply superb. A shocking moment in history is the backdrop to a hugely gripping thriller, and I really hope we see Albert Ryan again.”
—Mark Billingham, bestselling author of Rush of Blood
"A great book and the rest of the 2013 books will have to work hard to top it."
—Jon Jordan, Crimespree Magazine
“Wildly entertaining, Ratlines is a superb mystery but in addition, a spotlight on a slice of Irish history largely ignored. This is a complex mystery told in the exceptional style that Stuart Neville has made his own. Jameson and Nazis, Irish rebel songs and Charles Haughey, it's a bold and brilliant blend.”
—Ken Bruen, Shamus Award winning author of The Guard
“Hitler, Charlie Haughey and JFK? Now that’s what I call a set-up.”
—Declan Burke, award-winning author of Slaughter’s Hound
“The alliances and betrayals, the sharp characterizations, and the uncertain morality of all concerned keep the story leaning over the edge of conventional storytelling into an edgier and more interesting territory.... Ratlines is an excellent read.”
—Glenn Harper, International Noir Fiction
"Ratlines succeeds on so many fronts. An extremely well thought out murder mystery relentlessly pursued by a very human protagonist, all set in a world 'I thought I knew, but didn’t.'"
—Dan Malmon, Crimespree
“Real characters, such as Skorzeny and Haughey move alongside the fictional creations...fascinating.”
—Ted Hertel, Deadly Pleasures
"Neville, whose debut, The Ghosts of Belfast, won the 2010 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller, concocts a believable plot with an intriguing protagonist torn between duty to country and his distaste for Nazi criminals. Fans of Jack Higgins and Ken Follett will enjoy this noguavel."
“Another moody winner mixes Nazis into Neville's usual Irish noir.”
"Neville runs his conflicted hero through a perilous maze of intrigue and double-cross, echoing the "ratlines" at the core of this gritty, fascinating thriller."
—Winnipeg Free Press
"Gritty... A lot of great visuals."
—Good Morning Texas
“Hoo boy what a story!”
—New York Journal of Books
"Another top-notch novel from this author, and highly recommended."
—Midwest Book Review
“A well-constructed backdrop is provided to the political drama as it unfolds and the whodunit element is nicely introduced.”
Praise for Stuart Neville
“Neville’s novel is a coldly lucid assessment of the fragility of the Irish peace ... a rare example of legitimate noir fiction.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Stuart Neville belongs to a younger generation of writers for whom the region's darkest years are history—but that history endures, as his first novel, 'The Ghosts of Belfast,' shockingly demonstrates.... This noir thriller plays out in a Belfast that, even in summer sunshine, remains oppressively gray. The clannishness of its inhabitants is vividly evoked.... A riot scene, one of the novel's best, captures a new generation's appetite for blood and an old veteran's nostalgia.... In scene after gruesome scene, Neville attempts to persuade us that this time around, with this repentant murderer, the killing is different.”
“Neville's tightly wound, emotionally resonant account of an ex-IRA hit man's struggle to conquer his past, displays an acute understanding of the true state of Northern Ireland, still under the thumb of decades of violence and terrorism.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Stuart Neville is Ireland’s answer to Henning Mankell.”
“The Ghosts of Belfast is a tale of revenge and reconciliation shrouded in a bloody original crime thriller.... Brilliant.”
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“This guy is a special talent.”
“Neville’s debut novel is tragic, violent, exciting, plausible, and compelling.... The Ghosts of Belfast is dark, powerful, insightful, and hard to put down.”
“Neville slowly ratchets up the tension—and the violence—until each page practically twangs with suspense.”