Ghostheart – R.J. Ellory

This is the story of Annie, a thirty year old that lives a rather quiet and obviously lonely life in New York.  Her sole means of occupying her time is the bookshop she owns and runs which has certainly more books than customers. The rest is spent with her neighbour a fifty plus ex journalist, Jack Sullivan who drinks to forget the horrors he has seen. A rather quirky friendship which is born out of wanting something more out of life and not finding it – in Annie’s case her father and who he was. In Jack’s case, a family; love.

However, fate has a funny way of working and Annie finds love, deeply, quickly and falling immensely from a great height when David Quinn appears in her book shop, her bed, her life and her conscience. Is David all that he seems?  Annie does not want to think of the old adage ‘too good to be true’ or actually is she merely cynical over men and past relationships. Look at her father, he left when she was seven and her and her mother never heard from him again.

In turn Jack becomes the father figure, that he always wanted to be and finds that actually it is a lot tougher than he would ever imagined.

When a stranger appears at the book shop with a tale to tell having known her father, Annie feels that she now has a link and can find some peace within herself.

This book is also the story of Harry Rose, a survivor of Dachau who is brought to America by the same officer who liberated him. Harry has seen the worst of people and the best. The way to survive is to obliterate those who cause harm and hurt.

We watch as Harry moves amongst the gangsters of fifties into the sixties, protection rackets, illegal betting, prostitution, no stone is left unturned by Harry’s life as he knows there is no God and that the world is bad. Harry learns trust from all those he keeps company with, he pays his dues and collects accordingly, always polite and on time. A man with a reputation not to be questioned. But with trust there is still no faith and when the worst of people is shown, Harry can commit the worst himself.

Friendships come and go but one man Johnnie Redbird is in it with Harry for the long haul; they have witnessed much and know that either of them could bring the other one down. The sign of a friendship which can be picked up immediately even if years have passed but the years have passed and the America they live in has changed and so have Harry and Johnnie. Will the trust in their friendship last to the end?

When a stranger appears at a bookshop, he has a story to impart and Harry and Johnnie will live on.

I admit to struggling with the first twenty or so pages and was at the point of giving up, but as soon as I started to learn about Harry and his life I was hooked. Suddenly I was captured by the whole plot and how could two seemingly different people, in different eras have possible any ties whatsoever. As the pieces slowly started to slot into place, I guessed, I was wrong, I guessed again what the denouement would be but was only half wrong and I cared about all the characters whether they were flawed or not, I wanted the end but I did not want it to. This is a crime book, but it is also so much more. A worthy read.

I met R.J. Ellory at the newbooks magazine Readers Day back in April and have never read any of his books before. Even though I knew one was a choice for the Richard & Judy Book club a few years back. However, having listened to him talk I was immediately interested in what he had written an d when the opportunity came I went and purchased one of his books. There was no thought in the one I chose, I just merely picked one. I felt it did not matter which it was and so duly signed by author who was most amiable especially as I admit to not having read any of his books I came home with said book and it has taken me until now to read it. 

I am so glad I have and also so interested in his other work as well. It fascinates me that a Birmingham ‘lad’ can write such wonderful fiction which is based in America. I wonder how American readers feel about it? I cannot believe I was so close to putting this book to one side and perhaps trying to tackle it at a later time. Tackle was not the word needed at all once I was hooked. I loved all the references to events and well know personalities (including politicians) within the book which placed the story of Harry Rose well, and gave you a real sense of what life was like at the time without having to go into great detail. I think this stems from my history degree.

I look forward now to reading some of his other books, and will cherish this copy signed by the author on my book shelf for many years to come.

4 thoughts on “Ghostheart – R.J. Ellory

  1. A great choice, and thank you for reminding me of a book I loved but had quite forgotten. I can recommend Ghostheart and A Quiet Belief in Angels, but after that I have a few books I need to catch up on.

    1. I have a lot of catching up to do! Will pick up another one soon. He was such an interesting speaker as well.

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