Ratlines, by Stuart Neville

Second paragraph of third chapter:

He parked the Vauxhall Victor in the small courtyard adjoining the guesthouse. Fitzpatrick had handed him the keys along with a roll of pound and ten shilling notes, telling him not to go mad on it.

A thriller set in and around Dublin in 1962. President Kennedy is coming; a series of brutal murders has eliminated several former Nazis who had been given unofficial asylum by the Irish government, specifically by the justice minister, Charles J. Haughey; and our protagonist, Irish military intelligence officer Albert Ryan, is brought in to protect former SS commander Otto Skorzeny, the most prominent of the fugitives. It turns out (this is hardly a big spoiler, given the theme and timing) that the Israelis are behind it.

I feel rather ambivalent about the book. The violence is unrelenting, graphic and icky. Ryan as protagonist makes some very strange choices of allegiance, and it’s not clear what his motivation is. There’s a girl who performs the function of peril monkey. For all that, it’s exciting stuff, tautly written.

My other reservation is that Haughey is depicted as the sinister and corrupt bastard that he certainly became by the end of his career. But he was only 37 in 1962, and in his first real job as minister for justice, where he was an innovative and (relatively) liberal figure. I felt that his portrayal here was a bit lazy (as is the revelation that the Israelis are Behind It All).

Neville has written a lot more Irish crime fiction, and I might give some of his more contemporary stuff a try. I’m not sure why I bought this – it must have been an impulse. Anyway, you can get it here.

This was my top unread book acquired in 2018. Next on that pile is Living with the Gods, by Neil MacGregor.