‘The Twelve’ also published as ‘The Ghosts of Belfast’ is Stuart Neville’s first novel. It is set in Northern Ireland during the early days of the peace when the country was barely holding on to that illusion. It has been labelled the first book in the Jack Lennon series although Lennon doesn’t actually appear in the book (he is mentioned).
Gerry Fegan was an IRA hit man during the troubles and spent time in prison for murder. Now he is back in Belfast and haunted by the ghosts of his 12 innocent victims. He drinks heavily, but this only slightly dulls the screams of his ghosts. Now the 12 ghosts want revenge and in order to get rid of them Fegan must kill those who organised their murders or stood by and watched.
Most of those who organised the murders are still well connected within the community and some are high level politicians involved in peace negotiations. So, as Fegan begins his killing spree, many people are keen to see him gone. His activities are threatening to derail the peace process, but every time he kills one of the organisers, one or more of his ghosts leave him.
Along the way he befriends Marie McKenna and her daughter Ellen who are also outcasts. Marie was from a prominent catholic family but she fell in love with a Jack Lennon, who is Ellen’s father. Jack Lennon, although Catholic, is considered a traitor for joining the Protestant dominated Royal Ulster Constabulary. Now Fegan is trying to protect Marie and Ellen while taking care of his ghosts. The death of one of Fegan’s new victims has only made Marie’s position worse.
The book was incredibly violent. Gerry Fegan was a trained killer and knew how to get information from people and get the job done in any way possible. Those who are now after Fegan and Marie are no less violent. Towards the end of the book thinks get completely gruesome.
I loved the way that Ellen could also see Fegan’s ghosts. Having read ‘The Final Silence’ I know this comes up again later on. I’m looking forward to filling the gaps of Jack Lennon’s life with ‘Collusion’ and ‘Stolen Souls’.
This book had the power to make me love the violent murderer Gerr Fegan!
Book Published 2009