Neville, Stuart - 'Collusion'
COLLUSION is the follow up to the critically acclaimed novel THE TWELVE, carrying on the story of events, a few months after the violent culmination of THE TWELVE at a farm in South Armagh. The collusion of the title refers to the two forms of collusion; firstly the vested interest by many of the parties involved in THE TWELVE in a sanitised version of events; the Special Branch, Irish Government, Republicans and Loyalists all have their own incentives to blame a small breakaway group of dissident Republican terrorists. Secondly, the collusion between Republicans, Loyalists and Eastern European gangsters when it comes to carving out turf and making money, legally or illegally.
But two men are not content to let sleeping dogs lie. Bull O'Kane, thuggish terrorist grandee, is determined to both wipe out all remaining witnesses to events at the end of THE TWELVE, and to get revenge on the man who has left him permanently disabled. O'Kane, with the help of his daughter Orla, hires a mysterious assassin, the Traveller to carry out his aims. Meanwhile PSNI officer Lennon wants to track down his former girlfriend, Marie McKenna, and their young child, who fled to safety at the end of THE TWELVE, despite meeting resistance from his superior officers and Special Branch. As the Traveller goes about his business and the body count mounts, attempts are made to track down Gerry Fegan and lure him back to Northern Ireland. After fleeing to the US under an assumed identity at the end of THE TWELVE, Fegan is attempting to live in a low-key style as a construction worker, but soon finds that the past catches up with him. Although the ghosts have left him, he is still tormented by visions of a young girl caught in a fire.
Until the later section of the novel, plotting concentrates on the Traveller and Lennon. The past of the Traveller, and how he has come to his gruesome work, and the backstory of Lennon, one of the first Catholic officers in the Loyalist police force, are subtly revealed as backdrop to the violence and chaos in Belfast and Northern Ireland as the Traveller carries out his mission. There is rather less focus on Gerry Fegan and supernatural elements than in THE TWELVE. It is only as the novel moves to another explosive conclusion, that Gerry Fegan again takes centre stage as Gerry Fegan and the Traveller, experts of violence go head to head.
As THE TWELVE was one of my favourite books of last year, I was curious to see how the second book would develop without the raw power of Fegan's quest to expiate his sins; however I need not have worried. COLLUSION may have a different plot engine, but if anything COLLUSION is a stronger book than THE TWELVE, with a multi-layered storyline, the levels of official and unofficial deception and self-deception unravelling like an onion. For a quality political thriller, read COLLUSION, but if you can, read THE TWELVE first to get the full picture.
Read another review of COLLUSION.
Laura Root, England