Neville, Stuart - 'Stolen Souls'
Galya Petrovna had thought that she was travelling to Dublin to live with a Russian family and look after their children. But instead she is here, in a Belfast bedroom, watching a man bleed to death, a man that she has just stabbed. The dead man's brother is a man to be feared and her minders need to get rid of her and the dead body, then they can pretend that they don't know what happened to either of them. But that night things go wrong down at the harbour-side and Galya escapes. She has to run and she is good at running. But above all, she needs to find the man who only wanted to talk; the one who gave her a silver cross and his phone number; the one who said that he had helped five other girls to get back home and that he could help her too.
And DI Jack Lennon? He is hoping for Christmas with his young daughter Ellen. But he keeps having to put in extra shifts at work. He is beginning to think that someone wants to make life difficult for him. And not just at work. Ellen's aunt would like nothing better than to have Ellen go and live with her mother's family. So - a nagging call from Ellen's aunt and a call from his chief telling him to come back into work. It may be Christmas but there is a dead body down at the harbour and an injured harbour policeman.
STOLEN SOULS is Stuart Neville's third book featuring Belfast DI Jack Lennon. With a plot revolving around people-trafficking and a Ukrainian girl on the run from both her traffickers and an even more frightening pursuer, this story appears to be more focussed on Northern Ireland's criminal world than Neville's previous two novels, THE TWELVE and COLLUSION, with their overlap into the activities of rival political factions. But corruption and political interests remain, not least in the threat to Jack from someone within his own police force and from the uneasy politics of Lennon's own past, all of which add to Jack Lennon's isolation as he struggles to find Galya and save her.
I personally like the hint of the paranormal that remains in this novel with the dreams of Lennon's psychically sensitive daughter Ellen, although this element is not as marked a feature in STOLEN SOULS as it is in the two previous books. As in COLLUSION, Neville uses short, punchy chapters to drive the story towards its conclusion. This adds to the pace of the plot - and in my case a complete refusal to put the book down until the very end. His vivid writing in which Galya becomes as strong a character and focus for suspense as Jack Lennon makes this a seriously good crime novel. In all I recommend that you go ahead, fasten your seat belt, and climb into this dark and tense roller-coaster of a book.
Lynn Harvey, England