Monday, March 25, 2013

Musing Monday...A Different Shade of Gray

 Monday is upon us once again, so let's look at the questions at Should Be Reading...

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are(or, aren’t) enjoying it.
 • Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up?
 • Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it.

I finished a couple of books this week, and started a few more. The first was the fifth in a series, Dying Game by Elly Griffiths, which bring back the ever interesting Ruth Galloway and her charming little daughter Kate. This time, everyone is heading to Blackpool, England. Ruth is off to check out an archaeological dig..that is what she does... with her daughter Kate in tow and her friend, and Druid priest, Cathbad, along as baby sitter and occasional bodyguard. Meanwhile Harry Nelson, Kate's father (but that is another story) and a police Detective Chief Inspector, is visiting Blackpool as well, with his wife, visiting family on vacation....but you just know the two, Ruth and  Nelson, are soon to be linked in a nasty crime.

Next, I read Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville. The book takes part in Ireland, so it was sort of in celebration of St. Patrick's day, although I doubt the saint would be too happy with the goings on in this story.
The main character is Gerry Fegan, a former IRA hitman, a hero in the republican community for the years he served in a British prison for his deeds. But now the 'Troubles' are over, a political agreement in the works, and Gerry is left with memories that cause him to spend his nights getting drunk, trying to ward off the ghosts. Because you see Gerry is a man who is literally haunted by the 12 people he killed, 12 ghosts that want revenge if they are to leave Gerry in peace.

So that bring up my muse for the day, a question I raised in another recent review of a book called Resolve. In that book, we know at the beginning that our hero is going to kill a man that very day, in the midst of a marathon he is running. Can we still 'like' him, care about his story if we know he is going to take someones life?

In this book, Ghosts of Belfast, he know that Gerry has killed 12 people. True, several of them were soldiers on the other side, which you might explain off as fellow combatants in a war. But several others were innocent passersby...a mother and her infant child..a butcher, killed when his store was bombed. And the revenge they cry out for will call for more deaths, the deaths of those they..and Gerry...hold responsible as well.
So, can you like a book where the hero is a killer?

Well, sometimes a writer can make it work. In Ghosts I think he does. Gerry makes no excuses for what he did, which is part of his appeal. He knows he deserves to suffer for his deeds...but he also does not want others to to get away without paying for their part as well. He is not a good man..but he is not all bad either, and for all his many faults you can't miss that small flame of light inside him, that small glow of goodness that may call him to do something noble and protect a few innocent lives.
Even if he is still a man very skilled in killing.

As I said last week, I like books that explore the Big Questions, the whole balance of Good and Evil and a book like this does that very well. Because it is rarely all black and white, rather frequently, shades of gray.
And Gerry is a very gray, but interesting man.


  1. Definitely seeing the good as well as the bad in a character makes it possible to connect to him/her on some level. Probing the vulnerabilities of a character makes a read that much more interesting.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  2. i always have found that gray is a lot more interesting than black or white when it comes to books

  3. Gray is interesting and gives you lots to talk about with others but I very much enjoy the clear distinction. This is why I love Stephen King so much. He is pretty firm on the topic.

  4. I picked up The Ghosts of Belfast recently, I'll have to bump it up my TBR--it sounds really good!

  5. You know I always feel kind of weirded out that that I like Dexter. Shouldn't I hate him?

  6. I prefer gray and definitely, not black.......gray means you still have a chance.

    1. honestly..i don't mind some black and dark gray on the way. but I want white goodness at the end.
      except with Dexter, my favorite serial killer.

  7. If you can believe the media even some serial killers in real life are quite ordinary or even likeable like when you hear neighbors or friends say they can't believe it of them. I'm thinking like say Ted Bundy types. I read a book recently where a character commits murders but because he was previously characterized as likeable, a good caring person and father when it came to the twist I couldn't buy it that he would do those things. I guess I like my villains more black and white than grey.

  8. Oh, here's my MM:

  9. I pick up just about every book set in Belfast that I come upon, but The Ghosts of Belfast is one I keep putting off. I'm just not sure it's for me.


please speak up, I LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!!