Tuesday 23 December 2014

Sick minds and buried secrets in a North-based crime thriller

Stuart Neville Harvill Secker, tpbk, £12.99, 358 pages Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie or by calling 091 709 350

Myles McWeeney

Published 06/07/2014 | 02:30

Stuart Neville
Stuart Neville

Stuart Neville (pictured right), a Northern Irish crime writer known mainly for his huge bestseller The Twelve, is on the verge of even more exciting times.

His last novel, Ratlines – his fourth – about Nazis harboured by the Irish State following World War II, is now in development for a TV series, with Stuart himself as screenwriter and executive producer.

The series is being jointly funded by RTE Drama and Northern Ireland Screen.

His fifth novel, The Final Silence, set in Northern Ireland, is a cracker, again starring PSNI detective inspector Jack Lennon.

The death of an uncle she last met when she was six-years-old gives Rea Carlisle a lifeline she never expected.

In her mid-30s, out of work and sharing a flat she can't afford with two much younger girls, her parents' decision to gift her the house could not have come at a better time. But first it must be cleared of her Uncle Raymond's meagre possessions.

However, one room stays stubbornly locked, and when she finally forces it open, she finds inside just a chair, a desk and a leather-bound ledger.

When she opens the book, she finds the pages are filled with locks of hair, fingernails and the ramblings of a sick mind: the ledger appears to be the catalogue of the unknown victims of a deranged but clever serial killer.

Naturally, Rea wants to call the police, but her stern father, a Unionist member of the Stormont Assembly who is being groomed for a seat in Westminster, forbids her to contact them, fearing the scandal will ruin his political ambitions.

Thwarted by her parents, Rea contacts an old boyfriend, detective inspector Jack Lennon. But Lennon has major problems of his own: badly wounded in a shootout the previous year, he is a mess, addicted to prescription medication and cheap lager, suspended from the force and desperately fighting for a medical discharge from the PSNI to secure his and his young daughter's future.

He doesn't believe Rea's story, but when Rea is murdered, Lennon becomes the main suspect and finds himself in the crosshairs of the toughest police investigator he's ever faced, Serena Flanagan. He must go on the run and try to unlock by whatever means possible the secrets of a dead man's mind.

Gripping from start to finish, The Final Silence is the fourth of Neville's thrillers to feature Jack Lennon, and is a direct sequel to Stolen Souls, published in 2011. Neville's economical yet nuanced prose style drives the plot forward at breakneck speed while building complex characters with the deftness that defines a thriller writer at the top of his game.

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