Sean 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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Sometimes 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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Every great trilogy knocks you out with the first one, takes it up a notch with the second one and then blows you away with the final chapter. There a few great trilogies. Many fail at the second hurdle let alone the final one. But not Adrian McKinty. The Sean Duffy books are a truly great trilogy and destined to become a classic of the crime genre and the third and the final volume is the best yet.
Things were not looking good for our hero at the end of I Hear The Sirens In The Streets. Sean Duffy had been demoted out of CID and dispatched to the border lands. His career in the police force appeared to be over. That is until a mass breakout occurs from the infamous Maze Prison in September, 1983. One of the IRA’s most dangerous men, Dermot McCann, is on the loose and planning a campaign of terror against Britain. MI5 are prepared to do anything to bring him in, including giving Sean his old job back.
Sean has a connection to Dermot but no one is giving anybody up in Northern Ireland. Sean’s digging instead leads him to an unsolved murder. A locked room mystery that has got everybody stumped. But the key to unearthing Dermot’s whereabouts maybe be found in unlocking this seemingly unsolvable mystery.
As with the previous two books McKinty skillfully blends humour and the grim realities of living in war torn Belfast in 1984 with a gripping, realistic mystery. Sean Duffy is perfectly flawed and damaged but determined to do the right thing, even if that means doing a couple of wrong things. It is a tragedy that this series must come to an end because what McKinty has been able to produce has been quite special and he has taken his writing to a new level. There’s a fine line between social commentary and compelling mystery and not many writers, crime or literary, can do both. McKinty has not only been able to pull it off brilliantly but he has done so over three amazing books.
I’m going to miss Sean Duffy but I also can’t wait to see where Adrian McKinty goes next.
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