I was a latecomer to the work of Adrian McKinty, only reading his early 2015 novel Gun Street Girl a few months ago. It was a book I very much enjoyed and in that book review I mentioned the series featuring Detective Sean Duffy—a Catholic cop in the Protestant RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) and set in Belfast in the 1980s—was a reminder of a time in history I’m embarrassed to say I’d almost forgotten.
Religious and ethnic wars have moved on since then but McKinty’s series brings back a lot of memories for me (as a teenager in the 80s), and he’s continuing Duffy’s escapades in his latest novel (the fifth in the series), Rain Dogs.Rain Dogs
by Adrian McKinty
Published by Serpents Tail
on January 1st 2016
Source: Allen & Unwin
A death in a historic castle, locked up overnight. It almost looks like a suicide, but then Sean Duffy pulls on a few little threads, and the whole Establishment could come undone.
It's just the same things over and again for Sean Duffy. Riot duty. Heartbreak. Cases he can solve but never get to court. But what detective gets two locked room mysteries in one career?
When journalist Lily Bigelow is found dead in the snowy courtyard of Carrickfergus castle, it looks like a suicide. But there are just a few things that bother Duffy enough to keep the case file open. Which is how he finds out that she was working on a devastating investigation of corruption and abuse at the highest levels of power in the UK and beyond.
And so Duffy has two impossible problems on his desk: who killed Lily Bigelow? And what were they trying to hide?
McKinty grew up in Carrickfergus before several moves transplanted him in Australia, so he knows the place and its surrounds well.
His prose offers a sense of bleakness of the time and place in which the novels are set as well as the culture and public psyche of the period. Murder and mayhem are rife. And sadly expected. The police and public are cynical and no one can see an end to the ‘Troubles’.
The mystery of the dead journalist unfolds amidst this depressing backdrop.
McKinty draws on a lot of topical issues and delves into relatively-recent history in this novel. Mention of Jimmy Savile had me googling the name just to check it was the one who came to international attention a few years ago. It was, and McKinty deftly references Savile’s charitable work supported by UK politicians and his involvement with institutions (such as Broadmoor) in the book. Other than hearing about Savile’s proclivities I had no idea who he was or the access he was given to vulnerable groups, so very much enjoyed McKinty’s ‘faction’ (fact and fiction combo) grounding this investigation.
The novel’s well-paced and I’m finding myself more familiar with the vernacular of Irish cops. (Though did have to google ‘gaffer’!)
Duffy’s still the smart arse I enjoyed meeting in ‘our’ previous outing but I found myself with a clearer picture of the man he is this time around—impressed with the way he treats and respects his colleagues, especially his underlings, and of course there’s his melancholy over a recent break-up. He continues to fight for ‘justice’ and steps on his fair share of toes but is also pragmatic enough to know when to give up.
Duffy and his team have to dig through a few layers before the what, why and how become obvious in this book, and the texture of the ‘factional’ stuff adds to the plot’s complexity.
I guessed how it was done, but again that was probably a result of reading and watching a lot of other crime fiction / drama. Or maybe an episode of Jonathon Creek. #whatevs
On the writing front I really liked McKinty’s transitions. I mentioned in my last book review (How Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon) that I was a bit confused by the timing and transitions between scenes. McKinty does it well and often with just a word or two….
Rain. Wind. The afternoon withering like a piece of fruit in an Ulster pantry. I made a sorry excuse for dinner, put on Joan Armatrading, made a vodka gimlet and went to bed with a book.
Phone ringing. Downstairs in my dressing gown, Che T-shirt, Liverpool FC pyjamas. “Hello?”
This is another great novel from McKinty and fans of crime fiction / police procedurals and those already enchanted by Sean Duffy won’t be disappointed.
As an aside, if you’re a fan (or enjoy some thought-provoking reading) McKinty’s blog is interesting and fantastically candid.
Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty will be released in Australia via Allen & Unwin in early January 2016.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.