Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ideological zeal and "ordinary" crime

Those good folks at Soho Crime, who have done so much to bring international crime fiction to U.S. readers, have sent along their latest sampler.

The slim volume offers excerpts from some of the books Soho and Soho Constable will publish this fall, and it includes new work from a number of authors you may have read about here: James R. Benn, P.J. Brooke, Leighton Gage and Martin Limón as well as The Boy in the Suitcase, a Danish mystery by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis.

I was especially interested in the bit from Stolen Souls, the third novel from Stuart Neville, following on The Ghosts of Belfast (The Twelve in the UK) and Collusion. I've been thinking about Northern Irish crime writing recently, about how one of its big themes is that tentative sectarian peace leaves paramilitary gunmen on both sides of the Troubles unemployed — and ready to move into "ordinary" crime.

Stolen Souls picks up a thread of that "ordinary" crime from Collusion — the, er, collusion between Loyalist gangs and Lithuanian human traffickers in Belfast's prostitution trade. A Ukrainian prostitute manages a bloody escape from her captors and, according to the synopsis that you'll find by clicking on the novel's title in the paragraph above, her flight provokes a bloody gang war.

From what I know of Northern Ireland, gleaned mainly from crime novels but also from one hair-raising article in the Derry News, the ideological zeal of the Troubles led to a certain Puritanism on both sides, Catholic as well as Protestant. Paramilitaries would make a great show of executing drug dealers in an effort to burnish their bona fides as defenders of the community. And the notion that righteous warriors would sublet prostitution rights to foreigners induced a certain unease in Collusion.

So, however the exciting escape in Stolen Souls turns out, I suspect the book will lay bare hypocrisy and maybe, just maybe, teach some of us to be skeptical of killers, drug dealers, gunmen and pimps who proclaim the righteousness of their cause.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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