This is the second in a series of police procedural novels to feature Sean Duffy. The first, The Cold Cold Ground, I cannot tell a lie, piqued my interest as there was a homosexual element to the crime. That’s hardly usual for this type of novel, so I gave it a whirl. And I liked what I read. Duffy was charming, flawed and had a wide ranging taste in music. Determined and fiery, he was a great creation, and so I was excited to pick up the second instalment, evocatively titled I Hear The Sirens In The Street.
Set in and around Carrickfergus in 1982, the backdrop of constant IRA trouble is richly textured by McKinty, who grew up in the area during this period. It hugely enhances but never intrudes upon the central plot, which revolves around a torso discovered in a suitcase. That’s relatively standard fare, but when initial investigations uncover the victim was an American tourist and the cause of death was an extremely rare poison, the investigation begins to unravel as more and more separate agencies become involved and a seemingly tangential sub-plot grows in significance.
It is not a perfect novel, though it is a gripping and highly readable one. A couple of crucial plot points are shoe horned in with brute force and a chapter with a lynch mob against the first black resident on Duffy’s street seems to have wandered in from a different novel altogether. It is the only false sounding note in the whole book though, and for that McKinty should be commended. Duffy is a maverick, but a hugely likeable (and realistically preoccupied by the female form) one. You find yourself cheering him on even as his utterly insane actions make you want to yell at him for being such a loon.
Pleasingly, the central mystery resolves itself quite neatly, but even more pleasingly, Duffy’s actions do not. The loose ends he leaves in his wake (including a mystery informant) are not all tied into a neat bow by the final paragraph, so it’s a relief to find out that a third Duffy novel, wonderfully titled And In The Morning, I’ll Be Gone, is heading our way next year. I will most certainly be reading it.