Publication Date: March 15, 2015
Pages: 69 pages
Summary: Deirdre O’Brien, an American political-activist living in Dublin, married the wrong man – and had to kill him to save the lives of thousands. Fifteen years later, he’s back from the dead, with a horrific plan to destroy the tenuous peace between Belfast, Dublin and London. To stop him, Dee will throw herself at a seedy underworld, where nothing is what it seems, and trust is a commodity too short in supply.
Short Version: Wait, who’s Kev again?
Long Version: It’s not often that I come across a book where I’m unsure whether the story is too complex for my brain, or just too complex altogether.
Katie Sullivan’s Three Ghosts actually has a pretty straightforward core: Deirdre (Dee) O’Brien on the track of her ex-husband, the not-quite-dead Pearse Finnegan, a terrorist who may or may not be planning on bombing the shit out of 10 Downing Street. It’s been fifteen years since Dee removed herself from her old political-activist cronies, including Pearse, but the girl is game.
She really is. One of the things I admired about this book is its representation of Dee, initially anyhow, as an intelligent woman who thinks and acts for herself, who’s neither wimpy nor needlessly aggressive, just assertive and clever. This isn’t born out by the final few scenes, which for some reason put Dee on the periphery as someone who is acted upon rather than who acts (and I can’t provide further details without using massive plot spoilers.)
As for who Kev is… well, I did eventually figure that one out, but it was a close thing. There are loads and loads and loads of characters in this short novella: Dee, Cat (a gloriously unique character sadly underused in all but one scene) Pearse, Pat, Kevin, Aiden, Emmet, Marley, Meg. And then half of them get code names, too… and then they all start double-crossing one another in a gloriously complex set of chess-like moves that actually had me backtracking in places so I could figure out what was going on and who was working with and against whom. The narrative is told in the present, but since these characters are bound to one another because of events going back twenty years, it can be difficult to puzzle out exactly what happened in the past, and in what order it all happened.
Sullivan’s knowledge of Irish politics and history is impressive and sounds authentic, particularly in dialogue. The ignorant (oh, who am I kidding, me) might want to make use of Wikipedia once or twice while reading. Her dialogue seems solid – as she’s a dual Irish/American citizen, she’s a much better authority on Irish slang than I’ll ever be, and I was confident while reading that I wasn’t going to stumble over any clunkers. (I didn’t.)
I rarely nitpick the individual style of books to this ridiculous degree, but there was one thing that was driving me up the wall before the end – Sullivan’s choosing to refer to Pearse not by name, but as “her ex-husband” over and over again, until the expression stuck out like a sore thumb. Small, but annoying.
Sullivan’s action sequences are well-thought-out and well-paced, without any drags in the reading experience. I did feel that the denouement was wrapped up a little prematurely and the book could easily have been several chapters longer and more detailed, but what made it to E-print was definitely still a quick, punchy, enjoyable read.