Title: Stolen Souls
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Trade Paperback: 312 pages
Publication Date: 26/01/2012
It’s not very often that you find a novel that grabs you by the neck and won’t let go. You know, the type of book that you settle down with, only intending to read a few chapters of before bed, and which is so compelling that you end up surfacing from it hours later as you turn the last page. Well, Stuart Neville’s latest novel, Stolen Souls, is exactly that kind of book.
Clammy, claustrophobic and filled with suspense, Neville has produced a taut novel that never lets up. It is a thriller of the highest order.
From the grisly opening scene in a small Belfast bedroom, where a young Ukrainian sex slave, Galya Petrova, murders the Lithuanian trafficker who is about to rape her, Stolen Souls grips like a vice and refuses to let go until the final page has turned. And at the centre of it all is Galya. Tricked into leaving her homeland in search of work, she has been trafficked into prostitution. And, when she manages to escape from her captors but finds herself alone and on the run from the brutal henchmen of a ruthless criminal, Arturas Strazdas – who wants to extract his revenge upon the ‘property’ that killed his little brother.
The only person that she can call on is the man who gave her a silver cross and a phone number. The man who claims he can help her escape. But as Galya is about to discover, appearances can be deceptive…
Searching for her, as the clock ticks inexorably, is DI Jack Lennon [not to be confused with Jack Lemmon!!], who returns for his third novel in the series. Plagued by guilt after the death of his young daughter’s mother in Collusion, Jack is – like Galya – an increasingly isolated figure, in a world mired in corruption and danger.
But, whilst Lennon remains a fascinating and deeply flawed character, and an integral cog in the plot, it is Galya who is the novel’s beating heart and soul [title pun not intended – promise!!]. She’s a victim of circumstance and of bad luck, but you know that she will never give up – her inner strength will not allow it, and she is certainly a far cry from the stereotypical ‘damsel-in-distress’ found in crime fiction. From the moment that the reader meets her on the first page, with blood on her hands and two thugs beating on the room’s locked door, you find yourself rooting for her – desperate for her to escape and survive. And Neville puts us inside her head brilliantly, revealing her past, her hopes and her fears, and her atavistic drive to survive.
And, when she finds herself locked in a fortified old house in an industrial wasteland, hemmed in by locked doors and tempered glass windows, with no way of calling for help, you find yourself sharing her fears as Neville remorselessly ratchets up the tension and the already relentless pace.