Thursday, March 7, 2019

Another Excellent Entry in the Sean Duffy Series by Adrian McKinty

The sixth novel in Adrian McKinty's excellent series featuring Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy of the Belfast, Northern Ireland police force is set in 1988. It begins with an ominous prologue in which three masked gunman march Duffy deep into the woods, hand him a shovel, and order him to begin digging his own grave--not exactly the moment that a fan of the series would be anxious to see.

With that setup in place, the story backs up to find Duffy on a brief visit to his parents with his girlfriend and their baby daughter. The visit is interrupted when Duffy is summoned back to the scene of a particularly odd homicide. Someone had shot and killed a drug dealer in front of his house, using a bolt fired from a crossbow. This is still the time of the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland, and the dead man's neighbors are not at all anxious to assist the police with the investigation. The murdered man's wife claims that she was asleep in the house and knows nothing at all about what happened.

It's possible that the man was killed by a group of vigilantes (actually a faction of the IRA) who have been targeting drug dealers. There are any number of other possibilities, of course, and Duffy and his team will do their best against very long odds to identify the killer and bring him or her to justice. Politics inside the department will also interfere with the investigation. Duffy, who has always followed his own instincts, has made some powerful enemies with in the department and, unfortunately, a reorganization is underway which will bring some of Duffy's worst enemies into positions of authority over him.

I've been a fan of this series since the first book, The Cold Cold Ground, and like the other five, this one is a great read. Sean Duffy is one of the freshest and most intriguing crime fiction characters to come along in quite a while, and it's always a lot of fun to follow in his footsteps. The plot is very well constructed and, as always, McKinty excels at describing the setting in Northern Ireland. McKinty was born and raised in Carrickfergus, where Duffy is stationed and clearly he knows the area, the people, and the politics exceptionally well.

As with all the other books in this series, the title comes from a song by Tom Waits, in this case one called "Cold Water," which, like a lot of Tom Waits songs, has an interesting story of its own behind it.

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