RATLINES


By Stuart Neville

Soho, 2013 ($26.95)

ISBN-13: 978-1-61695-294-4
e-book ISBN: 978-1-61695-205-1

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

Dublin, 1963. World War II has been over for eighteen years, but its effects linger on. The Irish Republic was neutral during the war, or as they referred to it, the Emergency, and offered a safe haven for former Nazis and Nazi collaborators after it ended. Someone is now hunting down those men, ending their lives with a bullet to the head. On the body of each victim is a message to Colonel Otto Skorzeny, once a favorite of Hitler, now a high-powered businessman living as a gentleman farmer in the Irish countryside. The message is: "We are coming for you."

Albert Ryan, a young lieutenant in in the Directorate of Intelligence, is assigned to the case at the direction of the Minister for Justice, Charles Haughey. President John F. Kennedy is making a visit to his ancestral homeland soon, and the Irish government very much does not want it known that they have been harboring enemies of the United States. If Skorzeny is murdered, that secret is sure to come out, and Ryan is charged with finding the killers before that can happen.

Ryan lied about his age and joined the British Army to fight in the war, a move not popular with many of the people in his hometown. The war left him with scars on his soul, and with no love for men like Skorzeny, but he reluctantly does his duty. He meets the man, does not like or trust him, but carries on with the investigation. In the process he meets a lovely and worldly woman who befuddles and intrigues him. That she may not be what she seems does not occur to him. He is a warrior, a tough man in a fight, but a babe in the woods when it comes to women.

The people he is trying to save are for the most part no better than those who are trying to kill them, but Ryan has a job to do and he does it to the best of his ability, regardless of the cost. The reader may not care about the victims, but they will care about Albert Ryan, a flawed but admirable man. Neville's writing is brilliant, his depiction of post-war Ireland is intriguing and informative, and his story-telling is top-rate. This is his fourth novel, following his award-winning Belfast Triology: THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST, COLLUSION, and STOLEN SOULS. Mr. Neville is an extremely talented writer with a bright future ahead of him.

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