After the Good Friday Agreement in 1999 among the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and the political parties of Northern Ireland, the people of Belfast experienced a period of uneasy peace. Following centuries of inter-communal warfare, including terrorist bombings and targeted assassinations, anything more stable would have been unreasonable to expect.
There were those on all sides who accepted the agreement grudgingly, if at all. The conflict had long since transcended the bounds of religion or the historical divide between Britain and Ireland. Sporadic violence continued to break out. Though disguised in the name of politics or religion, much of it was personal or simply the work of criminal gangs. And that violence is the subject of the Belfast Novels by Northern Irish novelist and screenwriter Stuart Neville.
Collusion (Belfast #2) by Stuart Neville (2010) 373 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)
After the Good Friday Agreement
In Collusion, the second of the Belfast Novels, veteran Detective Inspector Jack Lennon of the Police Service of Northern Ireland discovers at the outset that he is prevented from prosecuting a notorious criminal for attempted murder because the man is under the protection of his colleagues in the Special Branch (the political arm of the police). Then, investigating a series of murders, he finds growing evidence of collusion that “worked all ways, all directions. Between the Brits and the Loyalists, between the Irish government and the Republicans, between the Republicans and the Brits, between the Loyalists and the Republicans.” A criminal gang that spans the border with the Republic of Ireland is yet another factor in the mix. To his chagrin, Lennon’s investigation lands him squarely in the center of these disturbing machinations. He soon finds himself in conflict with a dying crime boss, two professional hit men, the corrupt political cops, and his own police colleagues who are under the heel of the Special Branch.
A cop with plenty of his own problems
Lennon is widely disliked within the police, and his insistence on holding the guilty parties responsible worsens his situation. He is a Catholic in a force that is almost exclusively Protestant. “Sixteen years ago Lennon had applied to join the then Royal Ulster Constabulary, making an enemy of almost everyone he’d ever known.” His family, and his wife’s family included. He drinks heavily and lives far beyond his means, causing him to be deeply in debt as a result. His obsession with duty to the police had ended his marriage many years earlier, leaving behind a daughter he has never seen. Above all else, Lennon is devoted to protecting her and his ex-wife from the violence that is erupting all around him.
For additional reading
Previously, I reviewed the first of Neville’s Belfast Novels, The Ghosts of Belfast. My review is at A grim story of war and betrayal in Northern Ireland.
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