Seventh Street Books, 2013, 320 pages
A torso in a suitcase looks like an impossible case, but Sean Duffy isn’t easily deterred, especially when his floundering love life leaves him in need of a distraction. So with detective constables McCrabban and McBride, he goes to work identifying the victim.
The torso turns out to be all that’s left of an American tourist who once served in the U.S. military. What was he doing in Northern Ireland in the midst of the 1982 Troubles? The trail leads to the doorstep of a beautiful, flame-haired, twentysomething widow, whose husband died at the hands of an IRA assassination team just a few months before. Suddenly Duffy is caught between his romantic instincts, gross professional misconduct, and powerful men he should know better than to mess with. These include British intelligence, the FBI, and local paramilitary death squads - enough to keep even the savviest detective busy. Duffy’s growing senseof self-doubt isn’t helping. But as a legendarily stubborn man, he doesn’t let that stop him from pursuing the case to its explosive conclusion.
The second book in “The Troubles” series. one of the wave of “Belfast Noir” series I became interested in after reading Stuart Neville.
While Neville’s stories are set in modern Ireland, Adrian McKinty is writing about Northern Ireland in the 80s, at the height of sectarian violence. In this second book about Detective-Inspector Sean Duffy, an Irish-Catholic who’s joined the police (and thus become an enemy of pretty much everyone), McKinty inserts a murder mystery into as many 80s pop culture references as he can shove into a book about Northern Ireland. Duffy is a music and movie aficionado so we can be frequently reminded of what bands were “cool” in the 80s, but the big time capsule here is Back to the Future (the movie is actually name-checked in the book) and the Delorean Motor Company.
Delorean really did set up a manufacturing facility for its cars in Northern Ireland in the 80s. It was meant to provide jobs and economic stability to the region, giving the British government hope for a means of quelling the violence. Unfortunately, it all fell apart a few years later, with John Delorean charged with conspiracy to traffic drugs.
In I Hear The Sirens in the Street, DI Duffy is thrust right into this historical plot, when the chopped-up body of a retired American tourist is found and somehow becomes connected to the Delorean facility. This gives Duffy an excuse to meet John Delorean himself and become peripherally involved in the FBI’s sting operation. Of course in this fictional version of events, everyone on both the American and the British side is corrupt and in cahoots, Duffy gets caught in the middle trying to actually solve a crime, and he ends the book being thoroughly screwed over, as honest men always are in books like this.
In the background of all this are also references to the Falklands War, which was also an event at the time but even more unrelated to a police inspector in Northern Ireland.
I like McKinty’s writing well enough, but rather than developing his characters (in this book, Duffy flirts with/screws several women, and there’s no hint of the bisexuality that randomly popped up in the first book, and otherwise just bangs his head against walls and muses about music and poetry like in the last book), he mostly seems to like writing books about Totally 80s! Ireland.
Also by Adrian McKinty: My review of The Cold Cold Ground.
My complete list of book reviews.