Review: When several men are murdered, Lt. Albert Ryan of the Directorate of Intelligence is called upon to investigate. The obvious link between the men? Though they were of different national origin, they were all previously members of the Nazi party. The Irish government will play host to a visiting President John F. Kennedy in the near future, and they want to ensure that these murders are not front page news when he arrives. A secondary fear is that a politically well connected individual, one Otto Skorzeny, also a former SS officer, may be a potential target. Ryan is rather ambivalent about his assignment — duty to his country versus a sense that these men got what they deserved — but quickly discovers that his investigation involves more than just the search for a killer in Ratlines, a stand-alone novel by Stuart Neville.
The role Ireland played during and immediately following World War II, especially with respect to the conflict between Germany and England, has been well documented in other historical thrillers. The author wisely moves the action here to a different time period, 1963, a time when Ireland wasn't exactly a safe haven for former Nazi officers and officials as well as sympathizers and collaborators of other nationalities but didn't turn them away either. A well-constructed backdrop is provided to the political drama as it unfolds and the whodunit element is nicely introduced though tends to get lost in what follows. What's missing is some tension in the plot, an edge to the storyline. The narrative is often rather monotonous, descriptive but lacking depth, not uninteresting but not engaging either. Part of the problem here may be the intentional misdirection associated with the numerous characters, including Ryan himself, who is conflicted as to his role. There is a considerable amount of doubt as to the motives and intentions of several of the key characters here, an element some readers may find adds an interesting twist to the story while others may find far too confusing. In the end, Ratlines succeeds more as an intriguing historical novel than as a suspenseful thriller.
Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided an ARC of Ratlines for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Soho Crime (Hardcover), October 2011
ISBN-13: 9781569479834; ISBN-10: 1569479836
Location(s) referenced in Ratlines: Ireland
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Ratlines by Stuart Neville
Publisher: Soho Crime
Publication Date: January 2013
List Price: $26.95