Monday, January 10, 2011


Pages: 464
Date: 09/01/2011
Grade: 3.5
Details: no. 1 Jack Lennon Investigations

I read this book for the Bord Gais Energy Book Club on TV3’s “Ireland AM”.
Coming Friday some my book club will be filmed while we answer questions about this book the result of which will be broadcasted at a later date.
In the time between now and then I’ll have to try and figure out what I actually think about this book.
This is the Story of Gerry Fegan. For years he was a hit man for the Republican’s in Northern Ireland, killing who he was told needed to be dead without questioning either the deed or the motives of those ordering him.
Now Fegan finds himself haunted by the ghosts of 12 people he killed. They won’t leave him alone, following him everywhere they leave him sleepless and trying to drink himself and his ghosts into oblivion.
But no amount of drink can keep the ghosts at bay. They want their revenge on those who ordered or caused their deaths, and they want Fegan to do the killing.
And so Fegan finds himself in modern day Belfast, hunting down those the ghosts want killed and doing the ghost’s bidding. And with every new killing, Fegan loses a ghost.
But today’s Belfast in this book is not such a different place from what it was during the troubles. The hard-men still run the city, politicians scheme to gain or retain power and the powerful both, Republican and British, won’t stand by and allow a lone madmen to derail what it took them over 30 years to accomplish.

I’m really not sure how I feel about this book.
It is really well written and it’s a page turner if ever there was one. Once I started reading the book I couldn’t put it down.
On the other hand, I can’t remember ever having been this enchanted by a story in which none of the characters appeared to have a redeeming quality. The problem with this book is not that it’s too black versus white, it is that there appears to be no white, and not a whole lot of grey either.
At times while reading The Twelve I really wanted to like Fegan, wanted to try and explain his actions, both in the past and now, away, wanted to make it alright for him to be who and what he was. But really, you can’t. He is a cold blooded killer. Killing in the past because he was told to do so and killing in the present to make his pain go away. But always killing because “he had always thought of killing as work”.
This book also left me feeling that either Stuart Neville is very cynical or I’m a complete innocent. My fear is that I’m probably an innocent, and that is a very scary thought. 

I will say this for the book though:
It would also make a great discussion book. 
If I find myself arguing with myself in my review I can only imagine what it might be like if I had others to discuss this story with.
It is however not a book for those who abhor violence, nor for those who can’t read about cruelty to animals. And if you want your endings to be of the (all) evil gets punished variety, you’d better stay away from this book too.

Morality issue and possible spoiler:
Fegan’s killing spree was really only about getting rid of his ghosts, in an effort to make his own life bearable again. It had nothing to do with trying to right wrongs or get revenge for those who had unjustly been killed. He only killed those who the ghosts pointed out to him and allowed others, at least equally bad, to live because they had no ghost attached to them.


A Certain Book said...

Not what I would read but if the writing is good it might keep me hooked. Thanks for the review. :)

janebbooks said...

Marleen, I reviewed this book for Amazon USA (THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST)
and believe it will be a classic fiction of the Troubles. Too violent for me...but fascinating.

Was Fegan a terrorist or a freedom fighter?

Gerald Seymour in his HARRY's GAME, a 1975 book on the Belfast troubles coined the phrase, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Seymour calls his Irish assassin THE MAN in his assassin!