Like many others, I was thrilled when I saw the author added one more book to this series, originally intended to be a trilogy. After reading it, I'm hoping for book #5.
Inspector Sean Duffy, the token Catholic in Carrickfergus RUC station, is back. He's 35 & has been dealing with Belfast's criminals & "the Troubles" for 10 years now. His world is one where checking under your car each morning for a mercury bomb is like tying your shoes...an unconscious & unremarkable habit.
He & colleague DS "Crabbie" McCrabban are called to the scene of a double murder. A wealthy businessman & his wife have been shot & their 22 year old son is missing. It has all the markings of a domestic situation gone horribly wrong but neither could have predicted just how complicated it will get. Before it's all over, the case will sprout tentacles that reach to unionists, the IRA, american spooks & #10 Downing Street.
While this can be read as a stand alone, if you haven't read previous books do yourself a favour & start at the beginning ("The Cold, Cold Ground"). You'll get the full back story & have a great time in the process.
Like the rest, this is narrated by Sean. He's such a well developed character that I swear I could pick him out of a line-up. He's irreverent, sarcastic & smart & many of his comments/thoughts are laugh out loud funny. It provides a much needed balance to the grim reality of the time (1985) when an end to the Troubles was not even a concept, let alone on the horizon.
He started out wanting to make a difference. Now, he's resigned to just doing the best he can. Never mind winning the war. He'll settle for taking the odd battle & making it home alive for another day. His humour is a coping mechanism to deal with the endless conflict while denying he's actually scared spitless.
The story is told in an economical but fluid style of prose that holds your attention while keeping you slightly on edge. Like Sean, we never know where the next threat is coming from. In between the riots & assaults, we are treated to scenes that are hilarious (a church sponsored mixer where Sean is viewed as a "dead man walking") & lines so good you stop to read them again (after testing some coke confiscated from a brothel, Sean describes it as "so pure it was like getting yelled at by God").
Many familiar characters reappear, real & fictional. Kate, his MI5 contact in a previous book, is back to take another stab at poaching him for her team. And 2 new recruits inject some fresh faces into the mix. Real life personalities & events lend an authentic tone to the story. Mrs. Thatcher continues to be universally loathed & in an interesting twist, Jerry Adams is tied to the IRA (something he has denied as recently as several weeks ago on "60 Minutes").
McKinty has given his main character the same address as the house he grew up in & is obviously intimately acquainted with the era. His portrayal is perceptive & informed, tinged with black humour that can provoke giggles at the most inappropriate time. It's an entertaining, fast paced read with a convoluted plot that puts a very human face on this period of Northern Ireland's history. The author adds to this by not shying away from killing off a main character. As in real life, not everyone survived & by the end, Sean's future is unclear.
So puhLEEZE, Mr. McKinty....just one more?