Thursday, February 14, 2013
Review of Ratlines by Stuart Neville (Harvill Secker, 2013)
The strengths of Ratlines are the characterisation, plot, contextualisation, and pacing and prose. Neville revels in tales of conflicted, outsider characters placed in difficult circumstances. The lead character in Ratlines is Albert Ryan, an Irishman, but also protestant who has served in the British army fighting the Germans, who has some sympathies with those administering justice to Nazis on the run. He thoroughly dislikes his mission of protecting Skorzeny and the politics underpinning it, but he’s prepared to do his duty. However, when all around are using you as a pawn with little regard for your well-being or justice, fulfilling that duty stretches resolve and loyalties, and Neville very nicely explores such tensions. Moreover, by using real events and characters, such as Haughey and Skorzeny, and capturing some of the social constrictors of 1960s Ireland, Neville firmly embeds Ryan and the story in the political landscape of Ireland of the time. The result is a thriller that is not simply framed as good versus evil, but is much more textured, nuanced and ambiguous. The prose is tight and expressive, and the story rattles along at a fair clip. Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable read.