Book review: The Detective Up Late by Adrian McKinty

Saturday, September 9, 2023 Permalink

The Detective Up Late by Adrian McKinty is the seventh in the Sean Duffy series. McKinty has been busy with some excellent standalones so the last time we met Duffy was in the spectacularly named Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly, released in 2017.

I was thinking there’d be a very long gap between books, but on further investigation (ie. looking at Goodreads) I noticed that this book was in fact originally released in 2018 and I missed it at the time. Unfortunately in my review of book six, I cagily comment on changes being afoot for Duffy though don’t offer any spoilers. It meant I started this with absolutely no idea what had happened in the previous outing. I soon discovered however that he’s moving to Scotland with his girlfriend and their three year old daughter and transitioning to a part-time role with the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

Book review: The Detective Up Late by Adrian McKintyThe Detective Up Late
by Adrian McKinty
Series: Detective Sean Duffy #7
Published by Blackstone Publishing
on 08/08/2023
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
ISBN: 9798212019002
Pages: 317

Slamming the door on the hellscape of 1980s Belfast, Detective Inspector Sean Duffy hopes that the 1990s are going to be better for him and the people of Northern Ireland. As a Catholic cop in the mainly Protestant RUC he still has a target on his back, and with a steady girlfriend and a child the stakes couldn't be higher.

After handling a mercurial triple agent and surviving the riots and bombings and assassination attempts, all Duffy wants to do now is live. But in his final days in charge of Carrickfergus CID, a missing persons report captures his attention. A fifteen-year-old traveler girl has disappeared and no one seems to give a damn about it. Duffy begins to dig and uncovers a disturbing underground of men who seem to know her very well. The deeper he digs the more sinister it all gets.

This book opens just as Duffy’s partner Beth and their toddler move to Scotland, where he will join them after working his last case. He’s done a deal that means he’ll return to Belfast several days each month to work part-time with the RUC and be able to qualify for his police pension. Duffy being Duffy, of course decides to take on a complex case involving a missing ‘gypsy’ girl… a case of little interest to his colleagues.

The case itself seems fairly straightforward.* Duffy, his long-term partner Crabbie and soon-to-be-replacement Lawson discover the missing girl had been working as an escort and they quickly narrow their focus to several of her clients. I was reminded here of my love of Duffy’s humanity, despite his cynical demeanor. He doesn’t judge the 15 year old they believe to be dead, but sees the person she was as well as what she was forced to become.

I love McKinty’s writing and I know I comment on it in each book, so won’t give examples this time but I love the device he uses to demonstrate time passing… by using phrases. Snappy, direct and moving the plot along seamlessly. I also very much enjoyed Duffy’s humour in this outing and tried to remember if he’d been as droll previously, sometimes dipping into second person in his narration. Here there were tones of the wry gumshoes of yesteryear….

The clock marched its way to 5.00pm, stealing our lives right from under our very noses.

McKinty manages to place readers back in time – particularly those of us old enough to remember that era anyway. Duffy’s love of music and music references are again plentiful and memory-evoking. The cultural reverie is useful I think in dispelling some of the social and political tension of that time in history. It’s hard to be possessed by anger, anxiety or injustice when you’ve got Ebony and Ivory or Sussudio stuck in your head.

There are a few directions McKinty could take this series from here. Duffy will continue part-time work in Ireland, which could remain the focus; but of course there are surely exploits to be had in Scotland. And then there’s also the liaison with MI5 he’s stuck with thanks to a double agent who refuses to trust anyone else.

The Detective Up Late by Adrian McKinty was published by Blackstone Publishing and is now available.

I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 

* Which of course isn’t the case.


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