Tuesday, March 08, 2016

RAIN DOGS, Fifth Detective Sean Duffy Novel from Adrian McKinty

Setting his crime fiction during the 1980s -- The Troubles -- in Ireland gives Adrian McKinty the perfect opportunity for violence that spreads, fire and counterfire in Northern Ireland. Readers of the series know that Detective Sean Duffy is good enough to earn bigger offers in major policing. But so far, between his own hard-living choices (drinking, drugs, challenging women) and the rash of deaths that keeps breaking out among those he cares for, Duffy has stayed with the force in Belfast.

And it's in Belfast we find him at the opening of RAIN DOGS, taking extra hours of work in order to meet "the most famous man in the world," Muhammad Ali. Yes, The Champ really did visit Ireland -- land of one of his ancestors -- and Duffy even gets a handshake from the formidable and charismatic fighter. But when the day resolves into the ordinary again, and he's home with his younger girlfriend Beth, the good luck hasn't rubbed off on the rest of his life: She's leaving him, as she's told him she would. And the next morning, when a fair sort of world might allow him to enjoy snuggling with her one last time, the phone's ringing with a call to work: a politically sensitive theft, followed like clockwork by a dead body discovered in a locked ... no, not a locked room, a locked castle.

Long frustrating hours of work follow, with nothing seeming to fit. In the usual life of Duffy, each return to the car means another exam of the undercarriage for a mercury tilt-switch bomb, easy to tuck under a police officer's vehicle for another killing in the endless enmity of Northern Irish life, Prods (Protestants) against Catholics, British rule against home rule. Any progress for Belfast will depend on a hand from elsewhere, especially a financial one. Could a Finnish corporation buy into the barren Belfast landscape and bring work to the battered city? This too puts pressure on Duffy: Solve the case so the visiting dignitaries can go home. And by no means can he consider any of them to be suspects in what must, after all, be suicide of a depressed journalist. Yes?

No. McKinty interleaves risk and assault with insight and companionship. Duffy's interactions with his team include solid partnership with the tough and seasoned Sergeant McCrabben, and generous mentoring for young Lawson, whose main roles involve placing phone calls and carrying report.
"Stomach contents? Where's the full autopsy report?"

"Hasn't arrived yet," Lawson said.

"What's the holdup?"

"Uhm, I don't know. I did call them, sir. Apparently there's some kind of problem. The pathologist is carrying out more tests."


"They wouldn't tell me." ....

"Well, find out, Lawson. You can't let these people run roughshod over you. You're a policeman."
McKinty's wry humor enlivens many of the scenes, but make no mistake -- this is police investigation in a dangerous time, and Sean Duffy may get some fun from teasing his team a bit, but death, well, that's something he takes seriously. And personally.

The locked-castle problem, the suicide that's a murder, the bombs and riots ... this is Duffy's Belfast. I enjoyed book 4 (Gun Street Girl) a lot, and saw some bits here that fitted with the earlier book, but mostly RAIN DOGS reads just fine on its own. Good twists, affection balanced with work, quick pace, well-managed suspense, yes, it all adds up to another great read from McKinty.

And if the ending seemed just a bit unusual for this series, well, I figure that's because book six will depend on these pieces falling into place. No spoilers, but I'd like to hear your opinion of the finale, especially if you'vee read the earlier books in the series. Deal?

Make time for this one. Seventh Street Books released RAIN DOGS in America today. That gives you just a little more than a week to get your copy, devour it, and be properly in the mood for a darkly enjoyable St. Patrick's Day.

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