Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Stuart Neville's Stolen Souls
Due out in the U.S. in October, Stuart Neville's third crime novel, Stolen Souls, is a terrifying trip through a heartless underworld, the dark side of today's Belfast. Galya, forced into prostitution and trapped in a Belfast brothel, escapes by killing a Lithuanian, one of her captors, but every time she seems to have gotten free, another monster appears. And this story is full of monsters: corruption, greed, ruthlessness, and lack of empathy reign.
There are a couple of character with redeeming qualities, beyond Galya herself. Detective Inspector Jack Lennon, the central character, now, in a series that started with a focus on someone else, is deeply flawed, struggling personally and professionally, but not a monster. His daughter (abandoned by him during her first years but now jealously guarded from her mother's family (see the first two novels for details of that relationship) and other threats, retains some of her second sight and is taken care of more often by Susan, her father's neighbor and sort-of girlfriend, more often than by her father himself. Susan is an ordinary person, not a saint but in the novel's mire of horrible people, she shines out as a beacon of normalcy.
As Galya bounces from frying pan to fire, Lennon follows in her wake, tracing the murders that followed the Lithuanian's death (andn there are a lot of deaths). The story is part gang war, part serial killer story, and part revenge tragedy (some of which is carried over from the previous novels, and various elements threaten Lennon from different angles.
A casual reader might have thought The Ghosts of Belfast, Neville's first book, to be an unlikely candidate for a sequel; and that same reader might have thought, after reading Collusion, the second in the series, that any sequel would be unlikely to sustain the ruthless momentum of the first two. But Stolen Souls, while quite different from the first two, is equally compelling and rewarding (and also equally dark, even without the emphasis of the earlier two books on the legacy of the troubles, a minor element here).