Book review: Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty

Saturday, January 2, 2016 Permalink

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.

Book review: Rain Dogs by Adrian McKintyRain Dogs
by Adrian McKinty
Series: Detective Sean Duffy #5
Published by Serpents Tail
on January 1st 2016
Source: Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9781781254554
Pages: 336

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.

  • Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library
    January 3, 2016

    This author is new to me but you pretty much had me at death in a historic castle. I’ve added this to my TBR. It sounds good. I don’t mind figuring out the mystery if the book itself is entertaining and I enjoy seeing the unraveling.

    • Debbish
      January 4, 2016

      Ah yes… and in this novel the exact who is up in the air for a while… plus how it unfolds is entertaining.

  • Stormi D Johnson
    January 3, 2016

    Not read this author but the series sounds pretty good so I am going to look up book one. 🙂

    • Debbish
      January 4, 2016

      He lives in Australia now Stormi, but was raised in Ireland, went to Uni in England and lived in the US for a while as well.

  • Michelle Weaver (@pinkypoinker)
    January 4, 2016

    I love author blogs so I will check his out. Thanks for the tip, Deb. I love the way YOU pull the threads on novels and unravel them for us.

    • Debbish
      January 4, 2016

      Oh thanks Michelle. Often I struggle with sharing too much of the plot and think I should talk more about the writing, characters etc…

  • Jo @ Booklover Book Reviews
    January 14, 2016

    Am so glad to hear his latest continues the high quality fare we’ve become accustomed to. After loving In The Morning I’ll Be Gone, I’m now listening to Gun Street Girl, and enjoying it very much. His sardonic humour never fails to amuse…

    • Debbish
      January 14, 2016

      Gun Street Girl was the first McKinty I read Jo and I very much enjoyed it!

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