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Publisher's Summary

Fegan has been a "hard man" - an IRA killer in Northern Ireland. Now that peace has come, he is being haunted day and night by 12 ghosts: a mother and infant, a schoolboy, a butcher, an RUC constable, and seven other of his innocent victims. In order to appease them, he's going to have to kill the men who gave him orders.

As he's working his way down the list, he encounters a woman who may offer him redemption; she has borne a child to an RUC officer and is an outsider too. Now he has given Fate - and his quarry - a hostage. Is this Fegan's ultimate mistake?

©2009 Stuart Neville; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Mystery / Thriller, 2010
  • Notable Crime Books of 2009 (Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times)
  • The Year’s Most Mesmerizing Mysteries (Maureen Corrigan, NPR)

"Stuart Neville's debut novel about the 'Troubles' in Northern Ireland is harsh, brutal, and unrelentingly grim. With spare, crisp dialogue, and a gift for turning an Irish phrase, Neville plants himself firmly in Adrian McKinty territory. And who better to narrate than Gerard Doyle? Doyle gets it—and so do we. His whine; his growl; his rough yet sensitive, always-passionate performance gives everything a listener could want from an audiobook." (AudioFile)
"With this stunning debut, Neville joins a select group of Irish writers, including Ken Bruen, Declan Hughes, and Adrian McKinty, who have reinvigorated the noir tradition with a Celtic edge." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Great read

Written by Stuart Neville, narrated by Gerard Doyle ..... Say no more! Can't wait for the next in this series to be released.

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pretty good listen

it started off really well. then it kind of lost momentum. still good enough to finish though. I liked it overall and would recommend it.

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  • barbara
  • Chiswick, Australia
  • 04-19-16

Ghosts and Villians

Any novel that Gerard Doyle choses to read is a gem and this is no exception. Listening to his wonderful irish accent is a delight as he brings all the characters to life, like an illustrator brings a book to life

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Loved it

I read the book and then listened to it on audible about a year later. I was swept away with both, but more so with the audible performance. I'm not sure if it's one reader or more, but it sounded like a voice for every character, which I loved. I almost gave the story a four star, because of the violence, but then realized that violence IS the reality of the plot, and one can't wish it away.

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  • Joe Kraus
  • Kingston, PA, United States
  • 04-15-16

A Hard Man as the Real Deal

Any additional comments?

At one point, our sort-of heroine, Marie McKenna, asks our hero (as much a hero an emotionally ill serial killer can be), Gerry Fegan, “You can’t choose the places you don’t belong, but what if the places you don’t belong are only ones left to you?”

It’s a great question, put in memorable noir elegance, and much of this novel sets out to answer it. Gerry is haunted, literally, by the ghosts of the people he killed when he was one of the IRA’s top hard men, and he understands them as demanding that he put to death the men responsible.

Most of this is as fine an example of the genre as you’ll get. Neville writes with consistent skill, and he has a gift for alternating scenes of riveting violence with meditations on things as simple as the work of sanding down a piece of wood. I’m new to his work, but I’m ready to declare him the real thing – someone who can stand up to, say, Ken Bruen, with whom he is often compared.

There are some limits brought on by the genre, though. Above all, I’m never satisfied with Marie’s answer for staying in Belfast. A point is a point, but when they’re threatening your daughter and they’re willing to pay your way somewhere else, why stick around? She may not belong in Belfast, and that may be part of the legitimate local critique of the work. (That is, Belfast’s recent generations have driven away much of what might be “the good.”) But I can’t help feeling she stays more for the needs of the story than in keeping with the character Neville draws for her.

The end of this is a satisfying showdown, but the very end troubles me. I’d give a spoiler alert, but the fact that this is the first novel in a series does that for me: Fegan is a powerful character, and he bears the weight of his ghosts with a dignity (and palpable insanity) that makes him memorable. The trouble is, he’s also necessarily a doomed one. He should not survive this, yet he does, and apparently he goes on to multiple further adventures. That’s a shame. Neville has invented someone remarkable at the heart of this book. I wish he’d trusted himself to invent someone else for another one rather than violating the emotional premise of this one.

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interesting story, excellent production.

Glad that Audible is producing titles. This is a good one. It is layered and atmospheric. The narrator is perfect for this story.

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it passed the time

I passed the time in a pleasant way. it wasn't very memorable , just ok.

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Amazing and dark

Brutal, suspenseful, dark, original, violent, twisted are all words that come to mind about this book! I'm glad it's book one of a series, although I may need something a bit lighter before starting the next one. Listened for 2 straight days it was so good! Gerald Doyle is simply amazing! I've listened to several Irish thrillers now just to listen to him speak for hours!

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Delivers exactly what is promised

Having been to Belfast in the last year, I found that this novel evoked the tension of the past and the simmering anger that maybe still underlies the peace. Fagen is haunted by twelve ghosts who demand that he kills those who made Fegan kill them during the troubles. The pointless deaths of innocents become a haunting angry crew who demand that Fegan become their agent for justice. The machinations of the political front and behind the scenes operators of the IRA get shrewdly and brutally evoked in a solid crime thriller. The narration by Gerald Doyle is excellent capturing different voices, different classes, and balancing the hard edge with the tender.

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I Highly Recommend This Book!

The story is incredibly well written and excellently narrated, it holds the listeners attention from start to finish.