SOHO Press, $25.00, 351 pages, ISBN 978-1-56947-983-4
Charles Dickens is perhaps the best-known, most loved and respected writer in the world, without exception. He continues to speak volumes to all of us across the ages, through the voices of characters like Mr. Pickwick, David Copperfield, Scrooge . . . whose very name defines parsimony . . . Oliver Twist, Fagan, Mr. Micawber, Pip and my personal favorite: Uriah Heap. But no matter which character he’s writing about, or whose voice he speaks with, much of his focus concerns the plight of children. Specifically, the victimization of them in the industrial age . . . which is what this week’s MBR 41 is all about; the victimization of young girls, only now it’s by organized criminals engaged in human trafficking. The novel is Stolen Souls, by Stuart Neville. It takes place in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and is part of an ongoing series about a character named Jack Lennon, a detective Inspector for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, or PSNI.
The opening scene on the first page focuses on a young girl named Galya Petrova, who’s traveled to Ireland on the promise of working for a “nice Russian family” as a nanny. Instead, she was sold into slavery, and sent to work in a brothel that’s owned by a family of organized criminals. When she manages an escape, under the most harrowing conditions, a series of crimes begins that draws inspector Jack Lennon ever-deeper into the case, as his life . . . and the plight of Galya Petrova . . . intersect in a tight cycle of increasingly vicious crimes. Hang on to your library cards Ladies and Gentlemen, this one will keep you going way past the late news on TV, because it’s got more twists and turns and switchbacks than your average two lane road through the Himalayan Mountains. Great crime fiction with a window into life in North Ireland after the “troubles” as the sectarian violence of the 1980’s was known.