Reader’s Review: Ratlines
Reading a book is an intensely personal experience. Preferences and tastes, history and personality all play a part in how we each interpret a book. As part of our forensic look into The Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Short-list we asked our Dead Good Reviewers to take a look at the four short-listed titles and share with us their honest opinions on the books.
Over to Wendy and Ade!
Ratlines by Stuart Neville
‘Two decades after the Second World War, Lieutenant Albert Ryan is ordered by the Irish Minister for Justice Charles J. Haughey to investigate the murders of three Nazis and to protect Hitler’s favourite Colonel, Otto Skorzeny, all of whom sought refuge in Ireland after the War. With Ryan being an Irish Protestant soldier who fought with the British Army against the Nazis, this novel decidedly sets the moral compass spinning.
The title refers to the escape routes that were devised throughout Europe to deliver safe passage for war criminals seeking sanctuary. Personally, I expected more to be made of this fascinating concept but nonetheless, Ratlines is a smashing story that had me reaching for the history books. It’s a sophisticated read, but even the hardened will endure the brutal torture scenes with a grimace and revel in the dark, moody, tension-filled atmosphere.
Neville covers a lot of bases with Ratlines; it’s historical, political, thought provoking and action packed. This is the sort of book you will want to pick up to match the mood of the imminently bleak winter evenings. I think it’s a thriller comparable to any of the greats and I imagine the film rights have been snapped up. I particularly enjoyed the reference to Ian Fleming’s Dr. No – Ryan says he hasn’t read any of the James Bond books and describes the film as “a bit silly”. That might be a bit awkward if Neville wins the CWA 2013 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award!’
‘The premise of Ratlines is intriguing. Albert Ryan, a member of G2 (the Irish secret service) is assigned by Minister of Justice Charles Haughey to investigate the murders of three German businessmen: all of them were associates of Otto Skorzeny, a former Nazi Colonel, now living in the Republic. Ryan is an Irishman, but one who joined the British Army in “The Emergency” (as it was known in Ireland).
As the book progresses, the reader learns more about Skorzeny and the relationship he had with Haughey: there are also numerous other mysteries: what is the Mossad operative really doing, what is his relationship with a former SAS Commander? Who is Celia? And what are the Ratlines?
Although some of the ideas are intriguing, the plot flows well, the book is let down by the characters – most of whom are, frankly, cardboard. Skorzeny comes across as a stereotypical villain; Captain Carter, the former SAS officer is a typical thug, and we learn nothing of his motivation for hunting down ex-nazis; whilst Albert Ryan, who is apparently the hero, has no character whatsoever: I can tell you exactly nothing about him.
I also wasn’t keen on the ending of the book: whereas you could argue that not having a resolution to the story makes it “more like real life”, I think the story would have been better served by an ending that tied up the threads of the tale.
Overall, a flawed work, that I would find hard to recommend to people.’
A big thank you to our Dead Good Reviewers Wendy and Ade for reviewing Ratlines.