Seventh Street Books, 2017, 319 pages
Another thrilling mystery featuring Detective Sean Duffy and his most dangerous investigation yet.
Belfast, 1988. A man is found dead, killed with a bolt from a crossbow in front of his house. This is no hunting accident. But uncovering who is responsible for the murder will take Detective Sean Duffy down his most dangerous road yet, a road that leads to a lonely clearing on a high bog where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave.
Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs, and with his relationship on the rocks, Duffy will need all his wits to get out of this investigation in one piece.
Sean Duffy has survived five previous novels being a Catholic peeler in Northern Ireland, but McKinty starts this novel at the halfway point, with Duffy being led out into the woods to dig his own grave. Then he backtracks to show us how our troubled police detective got into this mess, and waits until the last few chapters to show how he gets out.
It all begins with a Bulgarian killed by a crossbow. This is unusual enough, and when Police Detective Duffy and his loyal squad begin investigating, they find that the dead man was a drug dealer. So, probably killed by the IRA or a paramilitary for operating on their turf, right? Except it turns out he was in good standing with the paramilitaries, all paid up on his protection money. Then his wife disappears, and they aren't sure if she's the murderer, the next victim, or just skipping out of the country.
Like most stories about the cops and the IRA in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, there is a lot of corruption, violence, and double-crossing. McKinty reminds us of the times by mentioning how Duffy checks under his car for bombs, every single time. He also reminds us of the times with pop culture references, everything from music to Star Trek (Duffy is a bit of a nerd). Duffy is having problems with his home life, with a girlfriend/baby-mama who doesn't understand why Duffy isn't enthusiastic about them moving into a house bought for them by her rich father. he's also not enthusiastic about her going off to Scotland to pursue some sort of art degree with a thesis involving Batman. (Yes, his girlfriend is apparently a comic book nerd.)
Then we get the multiple murder attempts, and finally, Duffy being bagged by the IRA and taken out to the woods. This was a short, tense thriller with a decent balance of murder mystery, Irish politics, and characterization.
This series started in the early 80s, and now the decade is drawing to a close. Duffy, as he points out, still has quite a few years before he reaches retirement age.
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, Rain Dogs, and Hidden River.
My complete list of book reviews.