Seventh Street Books, 2015, 315 pages
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 courtyard of Carrickfergus castle, it looks like a suicide. Yet there are a few things that bother Duffy just enough to keep the case file open, which is how he finds out that Bigelow 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?
The fifth Sean Duffy book has Detective Inspector Duffy investigating the apparent suicide of an English journalist who threw herself off the walls of an old castle. The seemingly simple case naturally turns out to have twists, and Duffy has to figure out the suicide-turned-homicide in what looks like a locked-room mystery.
Much of what gives McKinty's novels their flavor is the 80s setting, full of pop culture references, contemporary name brands, and of course, his characters' musical tastes. In this case, though, the author manages to reach back across the decades to plant a note from much more recent history. When the case Duffy is investigating begins to unearth evidence of a pedophile sex ring going up to the highest levels of society — the stuff of paranoid conspiracy theories, of course, which is why as usual he gets flak from his superiors for sticking his nose where he shouldn't — he gets to meet legendary media personality Jimmy Saville.
McKinty is fond of having his fictional characters meet real historical figures. In previous books, DI Duffy met John DeLorean and Margaret Thatcher, among others. So I was not surprised to see him taking the opportunity to link this case with Jimmy Saville, who as as we now know, turns out to have had a decades-long history of molestation accusations. Gary Glitter also gets a mention, and the book starts with Duffy shaking hands with Mohammad Ali.
The mystery, and the investigation, is a typical one in which powerful people try to pull strings to help other powerful people escape justice, while Duffy doggedly tries to foil them, only partially succeeding. In these gritty Irish noir novels, victories are usually small and often posthumous.
Finally, the series has been refreshingly light on delving too deeply into Sean Duffy's personal life — we know him well enough now as a character, but there hasn't been the endless recitation of characters from previous books in which pages are spent catching us up to all of their goings on. However, at the end of this book, there is a significant change in Duffy's personal life, so I'll be interested to see how much this changes in the next book.
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, Gun Street Girl, and Hidden River.
My complete list of book reviews.