Review: Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty

9781781254554Sean Duffy returns in the eagerly anticipated fifth book in the Sean Duffy “trilogy”.

The year is 1987 and The Troubles are far from abating, especially around Sean Duffy who, with his knack for attracting trouble, is starting to show his weariness for its relentlessness. He still meticulously checks under his car each morning for bombs and still can’t maintain a relationship for any length of time. But when he gets a case that doesn’t add up he is still like a dog with bone; unable and unwilling to give it up.

When the body of Lily Bigelow is found inside Carrickfergus Castle it looks like an apparent suicide. No one else could have had access to the castle and there is no evidence of foul play. Sean Duffy is ready to sign off on the case but there are a few loose threads gnawing at him. As he starts to pick a way at them he soon uncovers something far more sinister in play. Something those above him don’t want him to uncover which makes it all the more difficult to prove. And he if can prove it will he be able to deliver justice?

McKinty paces this book brilliantly. Duffy’s malaise is perfectly instilled into the early plotting and when he gets a sniff of the larger picture the whole atmosphere of the novel shifts. Duffy’s need to see justice applied drives the last quarter of the novel and I am a little bit worried that Adrian McKinty may have found the perfect way to sign off on the series. I really hope not. Sean Duffy is an incredible addition to the crime fiction canon and still has not captured the audience this amazing series deserves. All the elements that make great crime fiction are here in spades; clever plots, political commentary, a true outsider as our hero and of course the perfect balance of humour and grim reality. If you haven’t read this series yet get your hands onThe Cold, Cold Ground immediately, especially if you are a crime fan of any persuasion. And if you have already discovered this wonderful series you are in for another sublime addition to the genre.

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Review: Those We Left Behind by Stuart Neville

9781846556975Stuart Neville takes his writing up another notch in his latest thought-provoking and tragic crime novel.

This isn’t a crime novel where a mystery needs to be solved or a vicious killer is stalking victims, although you are kept guessing at different times. This is a crime novel about what happens afterwards, after a crime has been committed and punishment has been handed out and served. It is about what happens to those who were involved and how they deal with the consequences.

Ciaran and Thomas Devine were convicted of the murder of their foster-father seven years ago. Ciaran, 12-years-old at the time, confessed to the murder and his older brother Thomas was convicted of being an accessory. They have both done their time. Thomas was released two years ago and 19-year-old Ciaran has just been granted parole.

Ciaran’s release causes shock waves. The son of the victim is outraged and can barely control his rage at their release. Accusations were levelled by the brothers which have caused him great distress in the years since the murder.  The detective who took Ciaran’s confession is also concerned. She had doubts about Ciaran’s confession and believes he confessed to ensure Thomas received a lighter sentence. She knows his older brother holds enormous power over the him. Caught in the middle is Ciaran’s probation officer who must help Ciaran adjust to society on the outside. Ciaran went away as a child and although he is now grown up he is still every bit the scared little boy from seven years ago. On his release he immediately gravitates towards Thomas, who was released earlier, and trouble is not far behind the two brothers.

Stuart Neville has constructed a very original crime thriller that skillfully demonstrates that a crime story doesn’t ever end. The effects are always long-lasting and neither truth nor justice can ever provide the closure required by those left behind.

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Review: Gun Street Girl by Adrian McKinty

9781846689819Sometimes a recurring crime character is brought back and the story feels forced or the attempt feels lame. But then there are those rare times when, despite the series being over, the character comes back and exceeds what has been done before. And that is exactly what Adrian McKinty has done with Sean Duffy.

In the last Sean Duffy book, In The Morning I’ll Be Gone, it appeared the series had finished with a bang. Adrian McKinty had flagged his intention to halt the Duffy books at three and had given us a more than satisfactory conclusion. Better to finish wanting more than for a fantastic character to get stale. However an idea came to McKinty for a book four but he still resisted until he dreamt how he would end that book and that was all he needed to give us book four in the Sean Duffy trilogy.

Not only has McKinty done it again in this book I think he has exceeded himself. The Sean Duffy trilogy was already something special and Gun Street Girl not only reaffirms that but makes it even better.

The year is 1985 and The Troubles are still in full, nasty swing in Belfast with the flames about to be fanned by the so-called Irish-Anglo Agreement. Sean Duffy is now and inspector and in charge of CID at Carrick RUC. When a local bookie and his wife a killed in what looks like a professional hit Duffy only takes a passing interest letting his detective sergeant take the lead and blood two new detectives. However when the case takes a nasty turn Duffy dives in up to his neck of course ruffling any (and all) feathers that get in his way. The bodies start piling up as Duffy quickly uncovers a plot well above his pay grade. But to crack this case he’s going to need someone to talk but the first thing they teach you in Northern Ireland is to never talk, especially to the RUC,  even when you’re supposed to be on the same side.

Full of McKinty’s wickedly black humour and brilliantly plotted this just maybe the best book in an exceptional series so far. Sean Duffy has come a long way from The Cold, Cold Ground but it is starting to leave its scars. I was reluctantly happy to see the series finish after three books but I think there is possibly a little more life in this awesome series to come. At least I hope so!

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Review – The Final Silence by Stuart Neville

9781846556951Jack Lennon returns in Stuart Neville’s relentless new thriller.

It has been a while between drinks for Jack Lennon. We last caught up him in Stolen Souls and we left him a lot worse for wear. The intervening period though has not been kind. Suspended from the police pending multiple reviews of his health and performance Jack has developed some extra bad habits to the ones he already carried, mainly involving painkillers and alcohol. His relationships are in free fall including, sadly, the one with his estranged daughter who his is the only family he has left.

Just when Jack thinks things couldn’t get any worse an ex-girlfriend contacts him. She has just inherited a house from her uncle. An uncle she never met who lost contact with her family years ago. She has contacted Jack because she has found something in a locked room. A journal detailing murders going back two decades and it appears there are links to her father, a prominent Belfast politician. She can’t trust him and she can’t go to the police so instead she has turned to Jack, who can’t even help himself at this point.

I really love what Neville has done with the Jack Lennon character. He was only a few mentions in The Twelve before assuming the lead in the next two books. He is not your typical flawed detective, flawed is too nice a term for Jack, yet he still manages to keep your loyalty.

Stuart Neville doesn’t take his foot off the pedal once in this gripping thriller and once again demonstrates why he is the crime writer everybody is and should be talking about at the moment.

Review – The Cold, Cold Ground & I Hear The Sirens In The Street

9781846688232The Cold, Cold Ground

I have been a fan of Adrian McKinty ever since I picked up DEAD I WELL MAY BE. I knew he had me hooked the moment Michael Forsythe began listening to Nirvana’s Nevermind on a New York Subway Train. I’ve always had a soft spot for Irish writers but that book took my breath away and I’ve eagerly awaited every book since. His new book begins with a reference to my favourite novel, THE THIN RED LINE by James Jones, and I knew straight away he had me. And no exaggeration, this is one of the best crime novels I have ever read. McKinty’s last books, FALLING GLASS, was superb but THE COLD, COLD GROUND blew me utterly away. It is easily his best book to date and is also the start of a new trilogy. I cannot wait to see where he takes it.

Set in Belfast, 1981 McKinty immerses you completely in the time and place. Right from the opening pages you are put smack in the middle of the riots and the hunger strikes. Belfast is a war zone where law and order aren’t worth the bricks they’re graffiti’d on. Sean Duffy is a Catholic detective in the Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). This and his ‘charm’ make him a magnet for trouble and he is posted to relatively quite Carrickfergus (relative to Belfast not anywhere else).

Through Duffy, McKinty explores the absurdity of ‘The Troubles’, the hypocrisy on both sides, the ignorant hatred and the politics of self-interest from Irish and British alike.

In the midst of all this a killer on the loose targeting homosexuals. The media isn’t focused on the murders and in a country where homosexuality is illegal and the paramilitaries on both sides have a zero-tolerance attitude there is nothing but apathy to the case. Except of course from Sean Duffy.

This all sounds very bleak but the novel is littered with brilliant humour. Duffy is a real smart-arse particularly when he shouldn’t be and the banter amongst the cops and between the various paramilitary groups is highly entertaining and stops you falling into a well of despair. The ending, as always with McKinty, is an absolute cracker with a wee taste of things to come.

This book is what crime writing is all about. A mystery to keep you guessing, plotted to make you turn the pages as fast as you can but the heart of the story is the place the characters inhabit and the complicated mess in which they must exist and by the end you’re not concerned with who did it or if justice is done because your mind has been opened up to a much bigger picture which can never be black and white. Bravo Adrian McKinty.

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9781846688188I Hear The Sirens In The Street

The second installment of the Sean Duffy trilogy is set a year later in 1982. The Hunger Strikes maybe over but Belfast is still well and truly deep in The Troubles. When Britain goes to war with Argentina over the Falklands the tensions and dangers only increase. Sean Duffy’s nose for trouble is still acute but if he can’t find trouble he can certainly stir it up. The novel opens with Duffy doing just that which leads him to finding a torso in a suitcase. Being Northern Ireland there are a myriad of possibilities and Duffy won’t leave any stone unturned no matter whose toes he tramples on.

McKinty again drops you smack bang into Belfast with all the sights and sounds of 1982 as well as what was effectively a war zone. The brilliantly plotted crime mystery is infused with wickedly black humour and the politics of Northern Ireland has the added complexity of Britain being distracted and America taking an unofficial interest. The book also centers around the DeLorean Factory (the car from Back To The Future) and the economics of a war torn city.

I’ve loved all Adrian McKinty’s books but there is something special about this trilogy he is creating. This trilogy will go down as one of the absolute classics of the crime genre and I’m already dying to see how the trilogy ends especially after reading the small preview you’re given at then end of this book. These books are why I love the crime genre. It goes places other fiction rarely dares and it takes you there from different perspectives while thoroughly entertaining you at the same time.

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