Neville, Stuart - 'Collusion'
A road chase through the rural lanes of Northern Ireland's border-country opens Stuart Neville's second politico-crime thriller, COLLUSION.
As a car is forced to stop, its occupants frantically ditch their drugs and wait for the pursuing police. But instead their car boot is opened, something weighty is heaved into it and familiar weapons are thrown inside the car itself. A smiling police officer takes the key, double locks the car doors upon its occupants and places the key on the bonnet, in full view of the driver. With a wave, the pursuers drive away - very fast.
"Collusion…" as one character later remarks, "… goes all ways, all directions."
We are back in the Northern Ireland setting of Neville's prize-winning first book, THE TWELVE (US: THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST) as some of its remaining characters play out their deadly games of trade-off and double-cross.
This time the plot centres on Detective Inspector Jack Lennon, little more than a name in the previous novel, as he holds back his disgust over the deals done between police and criminals for the sake of a "greater political good", or plain old corruption. He considers which fellow officer is capable of betraying him, as he grows increasingly desperate over the safety of his ex-lover and their young daughter, witnesses to murder. But first he has to find them. Not easy when the woman in question wants nothing to do with him.
In New York, Gerry Fegan the burnt-out paramilitary hit man at the centre of THE TWELVE is ducking and weaving as he tries to hide his identity; still keeping company with terrifying ghosts. He is drawn back to Ireland and someone he has to protect; back to where the crippled terrorist crime boss O'Kane is determined on revenge. And there is another nameless relentless killer. This one goes by the name of The Traveller, and he is looking for the people on O'Kane's list.
It took me a few chapters to get to grips with the individual characters and their roles in the plot. I began to wonder if I would find the atmosphere of disillusion and disrupted relationship too bleak; it is as if the characters are still suffering from the fallout and desolation of the events of the first novel. But while the settling of old scores and the ends that justify the means combine to produce a brutal body count; collusion does indeed go all ways and inexplicable bonds and ties between characters become apparent. The contest between the two killers, one driven by his ghosts, the other by his damage and hate, is gripping. The final short punchy chapters drive the book on to its violent conclusion. And at the end of it all, I did find I wanted to know more about the characters that were still with me on the final pages.
COLLUSION is an absorbing, gritty thriller which reads well alone but is fleshed out even more as a sequel to THE TWELVE.
Read another review of COLLUSION.
Lynn Harvey, England