Stuart Neville’s fourth and newest book to take place in Belfast, Northern Ireland, seldom lets the reader forget the history of that place, after the time of “the Troubles” and its history of paramilitary groups that proliferated at that time. Its opening pages describe the last hours, hinted at by the title, of Raymond Drew as he leaves the three-bedroom semi where he’d lived for the past 30 years, the first two of which were shared with “a wife he’d barely known, let alone loved. Dead and buried now, and he hadn’t missed her for a moment.” He walks along the edge of the river, where a woman and a dog walk past him, the latter “smelling the death on him. His and that of the others.”
Upon Raymond’s death, that house now becomes the property of his niece, 34-year-old Rea Carlisle, daughter of influential Stormont politician Graham Carlisle. As she and her mother start to clear the house of the dead man’s remaining possessions, she finds an upstairs room inexplicably locked; she finds a crowbar and forces the door open, whereupon she discovers a leather-bound book lying on a table, the room’s only furniture, and finds, to her horror (akin to that felt by the reader), pages filled with writings describing kidnappings, murders, and similar atrocities. Was her uncle the author of these pages? And for whom were these scenes catalogued, who the intended reader (for surely that is not Rea)?
The opening chapters alternate p.o.v. from Rea and that of disgraced police inspector Jack Lennon, her former lover now under suspension from the force, in denial of the PTSD from which he suffers since the events of a year ago. Lennon had been shot three times, killing his attacker (a policeman himself) and helping a murder suspect flee the country in the process, now seeking a medical pension (he lost his spleen and still is in severe and constant pain), so far to no avail. Lennon becomes a lead suspect in a murder investigation led by DCI Serena Flannagan, with 20 years on the force and going through her own personal travails, and things only become more complicated.
Each of these characters: Lennon, Rea and her mother, Ida, and Flannagan, is dealing with his or her own large personal issues, and the reader feels great empathy for each of them. The plot is ingenious, the pages fly, the ending unexpected. The writing is wonderful, and the book is highly recommended....Continua