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Collusion: A Jack Lennon Investigation by Stuart Neville
Cover Artist: Photo: Jed Share / Photonica / Getty Images
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Soho Crime Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781569478554
Date: 01 October 2010 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

In order to free himself of the twelve ghosts haunting him, Gerry Fegan - former IRA hit man - killed eight thugs and severely wounded many others. One of the wounded was wealthy, insane Bull O'Kane. O'Kane has now hired a vicious hit man, known only as the Traveller, to kill those who survived Fegan's wrath at the Middletown massacre. Two of the survivors are Marie McKenna and her child, Ellen, who are loved by both Fegan and Detective Inspector Jack Lennon. Many innocent people will die as the Traveller terrorizes Northern Ireland, tying up loose ends. Fegan and Lennon must join together to thwart the Traveller's plans to kill Marie and Ellen. Unfortunately, there exists a collusion between evil cops, Loyalists and Brits who will destroy anyone in order to protect the Traveller.

Stuart Neville's Collusion is a terrifyingly violent and gruesome sequel to his award-winning The Ghosts of Belfast. Though it lacks the strong supernatural element of the original, Collusion is a highly enjoyable crime drama set primarily in Belfast, Ireland. The action and suspense is guaranteed to keep everyone reading late into the night. What terrified me the most is DI Jack Lennon's inability to trust anyone as he literally battles to protect his ex-girlfriend, Marie McKenna, and their daughter, Ellen. It seems that practically everyone is a tout, i.e., undercover informant, who will snitch for the love of money.

In The Ghosts of Belfast, Fegan was the anti-hero with whom the reader sympathized because of his childhood hardships. In Collusion, Gerry takes a backseat. This time, Lennon is elevated as the hero. The reader is provided a history of Lennon's struggles when he joined the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in Northern Ireland. He was ostracized by his Irish family, the members of his Loyalist community, and his British coworkers. Likewise, Marie was disowned by her family when she moved in with Lennon, a peeler (police officer). To this day, both have incensed family members who won't speak to them. Though far from perfect, Lennon and Fegan are both depicted as admirable characters for defending justice.

Fegan has been hiding in New York City, working as a carpenter. Unfortunately, Italian thugs flush him out of cover; they threaten to reveal his true identity to those who are looking for him if he refuses to be their muscle. Fegan is having visions of a young girl trapped in a blazing fire. He shares a psychic link with young Ellen who is having nightmares of being on fire. This child, considered strange by several characters, appears to have invisible friends with whom she has conversations. This is the novel's only supernatural element. Fegan returns to Belfast when he strongly suspects that his beloved Marie and Ellen are in danger.

In Collusion, the mysterious Traveller is definitely the novel's antagonist. He has no qualms about killing innocent people; to him, it is just a job. A teenager and a housewife are just several of his victims who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The bedridden Bull O'Kane, who hired the Traveller, reminds me of the wealthy, vindictive Mason Verger of the film Hannibal; confined to a wheelchair and life-support system, Verger sought to capture and destroy the elusive Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Bull O'Kane's evil insanity is truly revealed when he, for unknown reasons, orders the death of his chauffeur, Declan Quigley, who saved his life at the Middletown massacre.

Collusion is highly recommended reading for those who enjoy gritty crime drama, especially Irish noir. This complex thriller contains numerous twists and surprises. It is rife with mystery. For example, who at the PPS is in collusion with the Traveller?

The ending itself was surprisingly sad and depressing and makes the reader wonder if there will be a sequel. One can only hope. Nevertheless, I will be eagerly awaiting Stuart Neville's next novel. In the meantime, a short story of his, "Queen of the Hill", can be found in an unique collection of stories, Requiems for the Departed, which combine Irish noir with Irish mythology.

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