In Adrian McKinty’s latest Sean Duffy thriller — the fifth book in what was at one time intended to be a trilogy — Duffy, a rare Catholic policeman on a Protestant-majority force in 1980s Northern Ireland, is called to investigate a burglary with odd undertones. A foreign-investment group from Finland has reported a missing wallet from their hotel room, and the local higher-ups want to make sure these guys don’t go away mad. The Finns are shopping for a place to build a mobile-phone plant, and Duffy’s home city of Carrickfergus wants to be that place. It’s not surprising given that Carrickfergus has, as Duffy notes, “an embarrassment of abandoned factories that had been set up in the optimistic sixties, closed in the pessimistic seventies, and were on the verge of ruin now that we were in the apocalyptic mideighties.”
As Duffy and his ace sidekick, DC Alexander Lawson, investigate the burglary, they meet reporter Lily Bigelow, who is both “[p]retty and funny” (she gets Duffy’s attention with a “War of the Worlds” joke) and is there to cover the Finnish delegation’s visit. They meet the Finns: the inscrutable Mr. Laakso, the creepy Mr. Ek, and giggly twins Nicolas and Stefan Lennätin — some head honcho’s sons or grandsons, just along for the ride. They also run into a former colleague of Duffy’s, Tony McIlroy, now running his own private security firm with the Finns as clients. The following day, Duffy gets another early-morning call regarding an apparent suicide at a local castle. And that’s when things really take off. What a group of visiting Finns, a foreign reporter, and a puzzling death have to do with each other is the kind of tangled web that, happily for us, marks Duffy’s professional life (and sometimes his personal one, too).
Challenged with the second locked-room — locked-castle, really — mystery of his career, Duffy pursues answers in his usual manner: resolute, incisive, able to worry a question in the toughest, canine-like manner, until every aspect and angle of the truth shakes out. He is pleasurably full of quips, wry and dry, observing his Daisy-Dukes-sporting neighbor “smoking Benson and Hedges in a way that would have cheered the heart of the head of marketing at Philip Morris” and telling Lawson that their aggravating colleague, Frank Payne, is “ ‘as fine an example of nominative determinism as you’ll ever get.’ ” (Don’t even get me started on the dark places he delves into under the pressure of a car radio blasting Kylie Minogue’s “sunny Antipodean vocals and . . . chirpy lyrics.”)
Duffy seeks professional and personal solace in fine Scotch, Ella Fitzgerald, a bit of a smoke in his garden shed, and, when things get really rough, Valium with vodka gimlet chasers. And, hard as he rattles cages, he’s got the unyielding respect of most of his colleagues.
Through Duffy eyes, McKinty captures the mood and flavor of a city and country perpetually under siege, the life of a detective at work during wartime. From the very first Sean Duffy novel, McKinty has melded those two elements elegantly and seamlessly together — think television’s “Foyle’s War,” for example — and this investigation is no exception, the police following leads in a particularly mesmerizing mystery while perpetually checking for potential bombs under cars.
McKinty also excels at scene-grabbing set pieces: This novel opens on a terrific one with a massive crowd — including Bono — fixated on a visit from Muhammad Ali. From a riff on The Champ calling The Troubles-immersed Belfast “beautiful,” to nimble cultural-pulse-point references such as Jesse Jackson, Néstor Almendros, and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, Duffy’s voice comes across loud and clear.
Thanks to Douglas Adams’s “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,’’ I know that five-book trilogies are rare but hold great potential, so I’m delighted to learn that McKinty is taking things even further: In a recent blog for his UK publisher, McKinty explains that he decided to keep going with the series because Duffy had the potential to change, to become more complex. It speaks volumes to the character he established, that, rather than making this latest book feel contrived, McKinty’s decision has breathed new energy and vigor into his novels: Duffy’s not just growing naturally into this larger space, he’s taking us right along with him.
I'm a novelist, blogger and book reviewer living in St Kilda, Australia.
this is my blog; I'm operating with terrible internet service since I moved house so I won't be blogging as often as I'd like, and alas, can't take or moderate, comments at this time...Presumably normal service will resume at some point!
The first Sean Duffy novel, The Cold Cold Ground, won the 2013 Spinetingler Award and was picked as one of the best crime novels of the year by The Times.
The second Sean Duffy novel, I Hear The Sirens In The Street, won the 2014 Barry Award for best paperback original crime novel.
In The Morning I'll Be Gone (Sean Duffy #3) won the 2014 Ned Kelly Award for best novel and was picked as one of the top 10 crime novels of 2014 by the American Library Association, The Daily Mail & The Toronto Star.
Gun Street Girl (Duffy #4) was shortlisted for the 2016 Edgar Award, the 2015 Ned Kelly Award, The 2016 Anthony Award and was picked as one of the best books of 2015 by The Boston Globe and by The Irish Times.
Sean Duffy #5, Rain Dogs, has been shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award 2016, the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award 2016 and the 2016 Ned Kelly Award
I was born and grew up in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. After studying philosophy at Oxford University I emigrated to New York City where I lived in Harlem for seven years working in bars, bookstores, building sites and finally the basement stacks of the Columbia University Medical School Library in Washington Heights.
In 2000 I moved to Denver, Colorado where I taught high school English and started writing fiction in earnest. My first full length novel Dead I Well May Be was shortlisted for the 2004 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award and was picked by Booklist as one of the 10 best crime novels of the year.
In 2008 I moved to St. Kilda, Melbourne, Australia with my wife and kids and started writing full time.
"If Raymond Chandler had grown up in Northern Ireland he would have written The Cold Cold Ground."
"Hardboiled charm, evocative dialogue, an acute sense of place and a sardonic sense of humour make McKinty one of our greatest crime fiction writers."
"A literary thriller that is as concerned with exploring the poisonously claustrophobic demi-monde of Northern Ireland during the Troubles, and the self-sabotaging contradictions of its place and time, as it is with providing the genre’s conventional thrills and spills. The result is a masterpiece of Troubles crime fiction: had David Peace, Eoin McNamee and Brian Moore sat down to brew up the great Troubles novel, they would have been very pleased indeed to have written The Cold Cold Ground."
---The Irish Times
"McKinty is a gifted man with poetry coursing through his veins and thrilling writing dripping from his fingertips."
---The Sunday Independent
"Adrian McKinty is fast gaining a reputation as the finest of the new generation of Irish crime writers, and it's easy to see why on the evidence of The Cold Cold Ground."
---The Glasgow Herald
"McKinty is a storyteller with the kind of style and panache that blur the line between genre and mainstream."
"McKinty's literate expertly crafted crime novel confirms his place as one of his generation's leading talents."
"McKinty crackles with raw talent. His dialogue is superb, his characters rich and his plotting tight and seemless. He writes with a wonderful and wonderfully humorous flair for language raising his work above most crime genre offerings and bumping it right up against literature."
---The San Francisco Chronicle
"The first of McKinty's Forsythe novels, "Dead I Well May Be," was intense, focused and entirely brilliant. This one is looser-limbed, funnier...so, I imagine, is the middle book, "The Dead Yard," which I haven't read but which Publishers Weekly included on its list of the 12 best novels of 2006, along with works by Peter Abrahams, Richard Ford, Cormac McCarthy and George Pelecanos."
---The Washington Post
"McKinty, who grew up in Northern Ireland, has an ear for language and a taste for violence, and he serves up a terrifically gory, swiftly paced thriller."
---The Miami Herald
"There's nothing like an Irish tough guy. And we're not talking about Gentleman Gerry Cooney here. No, we mean the new breed of bare-knuckle Irish writers like Adrian McKinty, Ken Bruen and John Connolly who are bringing fresh life to the crime fiction genre."
---The Philadelphia Inquirer
"McKinty's writing is dark and witty with gritty realism, spot on dialogue, and fascinating characters."
---The Chicago Sun-Times
"If you like your noir staples such as beautiful women, betrayal, murder, mixed with a heavy dose of blood, crunched bones, body parts flying around served up with some throwaway humour, you need look no further, McKinty delivers all of this with the added bonus that the writing is pitch perfect."
---The Barcelona Review
"I really enjoyed combination of toughness and a striking literary style."
"This is a terrific read. McKinty gives us a strong non stop story with attractive characters and fine writing."
---The Morning Star
"[McKinty] draws us close and relates a fantastic tale of murder and revenge in low, wry tones, as if from the next barstool...he drops out of conversational mode to throw in a few breathtaking fever-dream sequences for flavor. And then he springs an ending so right and satisfying it leaves us numb with delight and ready to pop for another round. Start the cliche machine: This is a profoundly satisfying book from a major new talent and one of the best crime fiction debuts of the year."
"The story is soaked in the holy trinity of the noir thriller: betrayal, money and murder, but seen through with a panache and political awareness that give McKinty a keen edge over his rivals."
---The Big Issue
"A darkly humorous cross between a hard-boiled mystery and a Beat novel."
---The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"A roller coaster of highs and lows, light humour and dark deeds, the powerful undercurrent of McKinty's talent will swiftly drag you away. Let's hope the author does not slow down anytime soon."
---The Irish Examiner
"A virtual carnival of slaughter."
---The Wall Street Journal
"McKinty has once again harnassed the power of poetry, violence, lust and revenge to forge another terrific novel."
---The Irish Post
"A pacey, violent caper in which McKinty vividly portrays [Belfast's] sleazy, still-menacing underbelly."
---The Sunday Times
"McKinty writes with the soul of a poet; his prose dances off the pages with Old World grace and haunting intensity. It's crime fiction on the level of Michael Connolly with the conviction of James Hall."
---The Jackson Clarion-Ledger
"The Bloomsday Dead is the explosive final installment in a trilogy of kinetic thrillers."
---The New York Times
"McKinty's Dead Trilogy has been praised by critics, who call it "intense," "masterful" and "loaded with action." If your reading pleasure leans toward thrillers offering suspense, close calls, wry wit, sharp dialogue, local color and sudden mayhem, you wont do better."
---The Sacramento Bee
"Le Fleuve caché d'Adrian McKinty impressionne par la richesse et la diversité de son ton et de son écriture, passant avec aisance du lyrisme ample de la nostalgie de l'amour perdu au rythme saccadé du narrateur sous l'emprise de l'héroïne. Ce livre rare et maîtrisé est une réussite bien digne de la Série noire."
"McKinty - that guy is a friggin genius."
"McKinty is a cross between Mickey Spillane and Damon Runyan, the toughest, the best."
"Adrian McKinty is one of the great new crime writers emerging from Ireland."