In this followup to the debut The Ghosts of Belfast, Belfast police Detective Inspector Jack Lennon learns his former lover, Marie McKenna, and their daughter, Ellen, are in danger after Ellen witnesses a bloody massacre loosed by paramilitary assassin Gerry Fegan. When Fegan, Marie, and Ellen vanish, Lennon sets out to find them—but he isn’t the only one on the hunt. Another survivor of the massacre, a decrepit underworld kingpin named Bull O’Kane, hires a sociopathic killer called The Traveller to bring Fegan to him. The story follows Lennon, Fegan, and The Traveller as each attempts to accomplish his mission: Lennon and Fegan seek to protect Marie and Ellen; The Traveller seeks to use them as bait to catch Fegan.
Ultimately, Detective Lennon (who’s operating under something of an official cloud) must follow his heart instead of orders to find Marie and Ellen. In trying to protect the mother and child, Fegan also seeks absolution for past sins. Lennon and Fegan eventually team up against O’Kane and The Traveller in a climactic showdown. Behind all the politically-motivated violence lies the collusion referred to in the title—the details of which make clear that Irish law enforcement and corruption are no strangers. Stuart Neville’s brittle humor, fast pace, and deft characterization make for compulsive reading. Stark and real to its core, the story’s “good” characters are flawed, while most of its “bad” characters possess at least a semblance of humanity. All that notwithstanding, Collusion is essentially about one man who’s trying to save his family and another who’s trying to atone for past wrongs, despite the obstacles. It’s as gritty a piece of noir as you’ll ever read, but one that still manages to have a heart.