MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND by Stuart Neville

Stuart Neville joins Jesse Sublett, Mike McCrary, and Gabino Iglesias for our upcoming Noir at the Bar. Come by the Penn Field Opal Divine’s this October 6th at 7 PM for books, booze, and readings from each author, plus some murder ballads from writer-musician Jesse Sublett. Those We Left Behind, Stuart’s latest novel, is our October Pick of the Month here at MysteryPeople. 

  • Post by Molly

those we left behindStuart Neville is one of the major voices in Northern Ireland’s new wave of crime fiction, dubbed “Ulster Noir” by the Guardian.  The whole of Ireland has become a power-house in crime writing over the past few decades, producing some of the best in international crime fiction from such voices as Ken Bruen, Lee Child, Tana French, and Adrian McKinty, and earning a reputation for Scandinavian-style dark, atmospheric tales. Neville’s latest novel, Those We Left Behind, is our October MysteryPeople Pick of the Month. Neville joins us for our bi-monthly celebration of books and booze, Noir at the Bar, this upcoming October 6th.

Stuart Neville’s many novels have run the gamut in subject matter. The Ghosts Of Belfast and Collusion are steeped in the legacy of sectarian violence and use mystery conventions as an approach to truth and reconciliation. Ratlines explores the lingering effects of Ireland’s semi-neutrality during WWII, while The Final Silence uses a mystery trope – a serial killer in the family – to explore how sectarianism opened the way for casual violence and perpetuated a culture of secrets. The Northern Ireland of The Final Silence, more-so than his previous novels, is one influenced by the past, but as much concerned about contemporary, general European issues as with problems specific to Northern Ireland.

Neville’s most recent novel, Those We Left Behind, follows the pattern of The Final Silence, his previous book, in its depiction of a modern Northern Ireland, beset by both historic and contemporary difficulties. British institutions continue to clash with Northern Irish citizens, but in modern, individual ways. In Those We Left Behind, a young man is released from prison to be reunited with his psychopathic brother. The two had murdered their foster father long before, and their former foster brother is out for revenge. A police officer and a probation officer try to prevent violence as the three men grow closer to an explosive confrontation.

Meanwhile, the policewoman also investigates the untimely death of a beloved friend from her cancer support group. The detective suspects her friend’s daughter may have more of a role in the deaths than just as grieving victim. She must confront the indifference of her superiors, unconcerned with the early death of an already-dying woman, in order to solve her case, and risks her job in doing so. The reader gets a sense of enormous goodwill, colossal bureaucratic hurdles, and tremendous, almost insurmountable, personal issues existing in the same small space.

Stuart Neville’s novels thrill, not only because of their pacing, but also because a crime novel, with its expectation of resolution, is the opposite of Northern Ireland’s history of sectarian standoff. Each fictional crime solved by Neville rails against ideological dehumanization to showcase a society fraught, but functioning. Although his novels acknowledge the legacy of history, they have contemporary settings, rather than historical.

Historical crime novels set in times of oppression or civil war tend towards the “sane man in an insane world” or “detective solving a small crime in the midst of a large crime” set-up. Neville, with his contemporary settings, restores the right of his murderers to be ruthless, damaged, psychotic people, disrupting a generally functional society, albeit with some kinks to work out. By embracing the police procedural as a genre, Neville shows his faith in a post-Troubles Northern Ireland, one in which government workers are not symbols of a repressive state but small parts of a functioning community.

Stuart Neville joins us October 6th at Opal Divine’s for Noir at the Bar. Neville will be speaking and signing his latest, Those We Left Behind, with additional readings from Mike McCrary, Gabino Iglesias and Jesse Sublett. You can find copies of Neville’s latest on our shelves or via bookpeople.com. Books for the signing will be available for purchase at the event. 

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