Seventh Street Books, 2015, 313 pages
Belfast, 1985. Amid the Troubles, Detective Sean Duffy, a Catholic cop in the Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary, struggles with burnout as he investigates a brutal double murder and suicide. Did Michael Kelly really shoot his parents at point-blank range and then jump off a nearby cliff? A suicide note points to this conclusion, but Duffy suspects even more sinister circumstances. He soon discovers that Kelly was present at a decadent Oxford party where a cabinet minister's daughter died of a heroin overdose, which may or may not have something to do with Kelly's subsequent death.
New evidence leads elsewhere: gun runners, arms dealers, the British government, and a rogue American agent with a fake identity. Duffy thinks he's getting somewhere when agents from MI5 show up at his doorstep and try to recruit him, thus taking him off the investigation.
Duffy is in it up to his neck, doggedly pursuing a case that may finally prove to be his undoing.
The fourth Sean Duffy book is beginning to show signs of wear in the series - Sean Duffy remains the too-bright-for-his-job Catholic cop in the RUC during the Troubles. Copious 80s musical references (including the title, which madcossack pointed out to me are all references to Tom Waits songs), Duffy smoking the finest weed and doing the occasional line of coke, and the IRA and the Unionists car bombing and shooting people right and left (especially cops) while secretly making turf deals to protect their lucrative drug trade.
This time, however, Duffy has been given a way out. A beautiful and charming MI5 agent named Kate has offered him a job. Her sales pitch is convincing, and Duffy decides to take her up on it. So he's just going to work one last case as an RUC cop - investigating the death of a rich kid who supposedly killed both his parents before jumping off a cliff. When other bodies turn up, Duffy knows there is a lot more to the story, and when he goes digging, as usual he finds a bunch of other nebulous organizations involved, from the usual suspects to shadowy American intelligence agencies.
Adrian McKinty really likes to remind us it's the 80s, and in a previous Sean Duffy volume, he had Duffy meeting John DeLorean and getting mixed up in the real-world DeLorean case. In Gun Street Girl, besides references to Back to the Future and a reporter girlfriend who has a fight with him because he shows insufficient emotional reaction to Out of Africa, Duffy meets Oliver North. Well, not really Oliver North. But the character and the situation is pretty much ripped from the Ollie North Iran-Contra case.
Then Duffy gets screwed in the end, but that's hardly a spoiler because it happens in every book.
I enjoy McKinty's Belfast Noir, but the 80s references are getting a bit stale and I'm probably ready to move on to another series.
Also by Adrian McKinty: My reviews of The Cold Cold Ground, I Hear the Sirens in the Street, In the Morning I'll Be Gone, Hidden River.
My complete list of book reviews.