Mysterious Book Report RatlinesRatlines by Stuart Neville

SOHO Crime, #26.95, 352 pages, ISBN 978-1-61695-204-4

It’s well known, well documented fact that after World War II in Europe, many National Socialists . . . Nazism tried to avoid answering for their war crimes by fleeing to Argentina and Brazil.  Others like Werner Von Braun and his racketeers from Peenemunde; a place that used slave labor from concentration camps in hidden underground factories to produce the V-one and V-two rockets which so devastated and terrorized London, were brought to America to be the progenitors of the American space effort.  Still others were commandeered by the Soviet Union for their fledgling space and ballistic missile programs.  All of that is common knowledge.  But Ireland?  Nazis’ hiding in Ireland?  Yep.  Afraid tis’ so.  Ireland maintained an official government policy of neutrality in WWII, referring to it as the Emergency, and considered it a British problem.  In spite of this, 100,000 Irishmen fought in the war with the British.  After the war those soldiers faced criticism and prejudice . . . while some politicians looked the other way as a few Nazi warlords settled in to new lives in Erin.  This week’s MBR looks into this interesting and enlightening subject through the eyes of a talented young Irish novelist named Stuart Neville, who writes some of the best crime-fiction in the business.  His newest one is Ratlines, and it takes place in 1963, just before president John F. Kennedy is due to make his historic trip to Ireland.

Someone has been murdering Nazi collaborators in Ireland.  Three foreign nationals have been killed execution style . . . within a few days.  All had collided with Hitler’s minions during the war, and all have messages addresses to Colonel Otto Skorzeny; “Hitler’s favorite commando,”

The rescuer of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from a mountaintop prison; a man who is currently living in Ireland.  The messages are all similar in style and say, “we are coming for you.”

The Minister of Justice, Charles Haughey, is concerned, fearing that the scandalous news could cancel the presidential visit, calls on Lieutenant Albert Ryan, of the Directorate of Intelligence to solve the case.  Instructed by Haughey to quickly find the killers, Ryan, who fought Nazis and fascism in Europe and communists in Korea as a British commando soon finds himself in a quandary.  The deeper he digs, the more it appears that Haughey is either beholden to, or under the control of Skorzeny . . . which makes Ryan a very conflicted characters.  He’s being forced to protect a sworn enemy instead of the country he’s taken an oath to defend.  With plenty of action along the way and no end of plot twists, this is a novel action-lovers do not want to miss.  Another thrilling read from one of my favorite young Irish novelists and a man who’s gaining daily recognition as one of the best crime fiction writers at work today.


John Dwaine McKenna