Ratlines by Stuart Neville


Ratlines by Stuart Neville
Soho Press (January 1, 2013)
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Ratlines focuses on the investigation into a series of murders of ex-Nazis who are living in Ireland 18 years after the end of World War II, or the Emergency, as it was called in Ireland.  The novel takes place in the weeks leading up to President Kennedy’s first scheduled visit to Ireland.  The main character is Albert Ryan, currently employed by the Directorate of Intelligence after a military career (he left Ireland as a teenager to fight with the British in World War II). He is a man who isn’t sure how to have a life outside the military, and he does not feel welcome at home because he fought with the British.

While Albert works for the Irish intelligence agency, his investigation is overseen in part by the Irish Minister of Justice and Colonel Otto Skorzeny, an Austrian ex-Nazi who is the target of the murderers. Albert’s investigation takes him to politicians and military folks, and it’s a very violent investigation.This book is more violent than books I typically read. Also, the book is almost entirely made up of male characters, which is quite a switch from what I usually read.

The novel delves into something I didn’t know about Ireland, namely its harboring of ex-Nazis after World War II. (I thought that was confined to South America.)  A ratline is a way out for ex-Nazis: providing them homes and funds to start new lives in new places. This political and historical background is the strongest part of the book. The plot itself is not the strongest part in my opinion because I went into the book expecting a significant amount of violence and crosses and double crosses based on the other Stuart Neville book I read, The Ghosts of Belfast. It is a briskly paced book with a vivid historical background, but the actual resolution of the murders was not the most interesting part of the book for me.

For other reviews of Ratlines, see Raven Crime Reads and Mrs. Peabody Investigates.

I have also reviewed Stuart Neville’s The Ghosts of Belfast.

13 thoughts on “Ratlines by Stuart Neville

  1. I am undecided still. The story sounds so good but the execution of it sounds lacking from the reviews I’ve read of this book. Bummer. I was ready to buy it but now….not so much.

  2. Rebecca – It’s not a part of Ireland’s history I know well enough either. I know what you mean by the focus of Neville’s plots, but I still might read this. I go back and forth….

  3. Good review Rebecca and like you I found the historical thread of the novel the most interesting aspect of the book. Glad for the most part that you enjoyed it and thanks for the link!

  4. Thanks for the review and for the link, Rebecca. Like you, I found Ratlines a slightly mixed reading experience, but did admire the historical contextualisation, and the author’s courage in tackling such contentious subject-matter. He seems to be fearless!

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