Cannonball Read 7, Book 4: In the Morning, I’ll Be Gone by Adrian McKinty

17187220I may have mentioned before that McKinty was something of a wild card discovery. I read the first in the Sean Duffy series, The Cold Cold Ground, purely as there was a gay element to it (shallow, moi?) and very much enjoyed it. So here we are at the third entry into the series, which sees McKinty essentially using the framework of the IRA bombing of the Brighton Tory Party Conference in 1984 to write about something that he is clearly more fascinated with: a locked room mystery.

Dermott McCann has escaped from the Maze prison. Duffy was friends with him in school, so is brought back from his disgraced exile he gets himself into in the opening pages to track him down. He hits brick wall after brick wall until McCann’s former mother-in-law contacts him and offers him a trade. Her youngest daughter, Lizzie, died a few years back and the death was ruled accidental. Mary Fitzgerald is convinced otherwise and tells Duffy that she knows where McCann is and if he can prove Lizzie was murdered and hand over the killer, she’ll reveal McCann’s location to him.

And so here we are at the real meat of the story, the locked room. Lizzie died in a pub locked from the inside and nobody else was there. Duffy takes his time to be convinced that Mary has any basis for her theory other than grief, but keeps plugging away as it’s his only lead to find McCann. That Lizzie was indeed murdered is not a spoiler (it would be a massive cheaty load of nonsense if she really DID die in an accident) and McKinty’s freewheeling storytelling style draws you in to the mystery very well. The machinations of living in 80’s Ireland are also fascinating, but some of them are mentioned far too often. I got to the point where I REALLY didn’t need to be told Duffy was checking under his car for bombs.

The end section, dealing with the tracking down of McCann and the realisation of where the bomb has been placed makes for some very gripping and occasionally unpleasant reading too. And while the epilogue may overegg the pudding a touch, it’s still good to know that plans to make this a trilogy were abandoned and a forth Duffy instalment was published earlier this year.

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Cannonball Read 5, Book 15: I Hear The Sirens In The Street by Adrian McKinty

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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.