Dec Hughes reviews Rain Dogs for the Irish Times. Parts of the review were a little too spoilerish so I had to obscure them but you can still read it if you squint a bit...
It is broadly accepted that the emergence of crime fiction set in Northern Ireland was only possible once the Troubles were over. Adrian McKinty’s acclaimed Seán Duffy series sometimes feels like a contrarian challenge to that position, following as it does a Catholic RUC detective based in Carrickfergus through the 1980s. With Rain Dogs (Serpent’s Tail, £12.99), we’re up to 1987 and, speaking of contrarianism, what better case for hard-boiled DI Duffy than a locked room mystery?
When journalist Lily Bigelow is found dead at Carrickfergus Castle, suicide seems, if unlikely, the only possible solution. But her notebook is missing and Duffy keeps his nerve, charting the movements of a party of visiting Finnish industrialists whose visit Lily was recording, first to a local brothel and then to a thinly disguised Kincora Boys Home. With a flying visit to Broadmoor to interview Jimmy Savile and a near-fatal trip to the Arctic tip of Finland, DI Duffy stays light on his feet and, if he doesn’t quite get his man, a shadowy network of spooks ensure that his man is got.
McKinty has all the virtues: smart dialogue, sharp plotting, great sense of place, well-rounded characters and a nice line in what might be called cynical lyricism (“Rain. Wind. The afternoon withering like a piece of fruit in an Ulster pantry.”)
If Duffy’s relentless patter occasionally makes you feel like you’re trapped in a lift with a stand-up comedian, well, those dreary steeples cry out for a little antic distraction. Be warned, though. Rain Dogs is Gateway McKinty: you won’t stop here.