Stuart Neville’s third crime thriller featuring Belfast Det. Insp. Jack Lennon, Stolen Souls, focuses on human trafficking.
Why did you decide to explore human trafficking?
I wanted to look at how it manifests in Belfast. The Republic of Ireland has become a major channel for trafficking into the United Kingdom because once a person enters the republic, that person can easily cross the border into Northern Ireland, and thus into the U.K. I also wanted to examine the involvement of local paramilitaries in the trade. They don’t take part in the trafficking, but they run many of the brothels.
How has Jack changed now that he’s the only surviving parent to his seven-year-old daughter, Ellen?
I think he’s grown up a little. When we met him in Collusion, the second book in the series, he was used to a very selfish existence. Caring for his daughter has opened his eyes to the fact that he can’t live just for himself. I wouldn’t say that makes him a good father, though. He still relies on his neighbor and sort-of-girlfriend, Susan, to help him raise Ellen, largely because of his work. So his approach to his police work hasn’t changed a great deal.
Did you ever consider making former IRA assassin Gerry Fegan, a major character in your first book, The Ghosts of Belfast, your continuing character?
Fegan had found some sort of peace, as imperfect as it was, by the end of Collusion. I wondered how a man like him could survive in the world. He’d just want to keep his head down; it’s not as if he craved adventure. He’d atoned for what he’d done in his own twisted way, so there was nowhere left for him to go other than off into the sunset. Jack Lennon, on the other hand, has a long way to go yet.
Violence figures prominently in your work. Is violence something you’re conscious of when you’re writing?
I don’t set out to assault the reader with violence, but it’s part of the world I’m writing about. I can’t skirt around it. At the same time, I don’t think I revel in it. I wouldn’t like to think it strays into sadism, which a lot of writers can do. What might jar people, however, is that I approach violence in a matter-of-fact, realistic way. In the real world, when violence comes, it’s hard and fast and brutal, so that’s the way I write it. What I find more interesting to write about, however, is the cost of violence. The Ghosts of Belfast in particular is about the cost of violence to both the victim and the perpetrator.