Call me naive, and I will have to plead guilty on this one.
I recently learned something about post-WWII history as regards Ireland that I still have not come to grips with. Ireland, a country I have long admired, opened its borders to dozens (hundreds?) of Hitler's Nazis and SS officers after the war, allowing them to enter the country, live under assumed names, and carve out whole new, often very prosperous, lives for themselves. And these were not just a bunch of low-level grunts, some of these guys were guilty of the worst kind of atrocity and war crime imaginable - and they often entered the country with enough stolen money to do quite well in their new home country.
Rather surprisingly, I did not learn this from some history book or a newspaper or magazine article. I learned of it, instead, from a brand new crime thriller written by Irish author Stuart Neville. Ratlines, set in 1963 just before President John F. Kennedy's famous visit to Ireland, features Lieutenant Albert Ryan, an Irish intelligence officer given the unenviable task of solving a series of murders that has claimed the lives of three ex-Nazis hiding out in Ireland. Someone, or some group, is identifying these war criminals and eliminating them one by one.
Ryan's superiors, fearing that any bad publicity will force the U.S. government to cancel Kennedy's visit, demand quick results, with no leaks to the media. Ryan’s problem is that the government minister in charge of the investigation seems himself to be in bed with one of the worst of the Nazis living in Ireland, a brutal psychopath to whom Ryan is forced to report any progress he makes in finding the killers.
Ratlines is well paced and filled with interesting characters, including a beautiful redhead Ryan becomes infatuated with at precisely the wrong time in his life. And the question is which side she is on. Now Ryan, because he can trust almost no one, is forced to take the fight directly to the bad guys with no backup - something that makes his long-term survival very unlikely.
Stuart Neville writes a good thriller, and Ratlines will not disappoint fans of the genre. Incorporating a little known facet of Irish history, a very unflattering one, at that, into his main plot line was a brilliant move, a little bonus to the curious reader that makes Ratlines a book to recommend to likeminded friends.
And that's what I'm doing.
(Review Copy provided by Publisher)