Ratlines by Stuart Neville

‘Ratlines’ is a fictional story based around a real person. Colonel Otto Scorzeny was a Nazi who fought for the Germans in WWII. He later was later ‘de-Nazified’ and settled in Ireland where he set up escape routes (Ratlines) for other Nazis trying to get out of Europe and establish new identities. The Irish dislike of the British helped lead to their neutrality during WWII and later becoming a haven for many Nazis.

It’s 1963 and John F. Kennedy is soon to visit the home of his ancestors. But the murdered body of an ex-Nazi has just been found and it is the latest in a string of murdered foreigners with Nazi sympathies. A note was left with the latest murdered body – Addressed to Otto Scorzeny it contains the simple message ‘We are coming for you’.

Lieutenant Albert Ryan works for the Directorate of Intelligence and is ordered to find the murderers, keep Scorzeny safe, and keep the situation quiet so as not to jeopardise the Kennedy visit.

Ryan is one of few Irish who fought with the British in WWII. Protecting Scorzeny is a job he finds distasteful, but as a soldier, he is bound to follow the orders of his superiors.

The investigation takes him into the murky world of Irish politics, Nazis, spies, torturers (some very graphic scenes in the book), theft and corruption. He meets the beautiful Celia, but is their relationship real, or is she just a honey trap. And, as Ryan starts to get closer to the murders, has he become one of them, or is he just using them to complete his assignment.


This was such a well written novel. The lines between right and wrong seemed to blur (or was it between wrong and more wrong). As I don’t know much about Irish history and their role during and after WWII, I found the historical components of the novel absolutely fascinating.

Stuart Neville’s earlier three novels all feature the same protagonist, so I’m planning to read them in order, starting with – ‘The Twelve/The Ghosts of Belfast’.


Book Published 2013


See a full list of books by Stuart Neville

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