I really enjoy McKinty's Sean Duffy series. This is the second of a proposed trilogy. I read the first and immediately ordered the second. I have just pre-ordered the third.
It's 1982 and the Falklands have been invaded, not a good thing for the RUC in Northern Ireland, for it means that Thatcher's retaliation will denude Northern Ireland of half the British troops stationed there, leaving the police woefully undermanned to deal with the IRA terrorists now well- and funded thanks to money and guns flowing in by the bucketful from America.
DI Sean Duffy is faced with a peculiar murder. A headless man is found stuffed in an old suitcase. He appears to be an American given the Big Red One tattoos and shrapnel. But he has been poisoned using , a product of a rare plant known as the rosary pea and one of the most toxic substances known. It's native to India, but can be found in Florida. Then the suitcase is linked to the killing of a UDC captain and things get weirder eventually leading him to the factory, which had been seen as Northern Ireland's solution to its economic troubles. Warned off by higher authorities on several occasions, but spurred on by a mysterious woman's phone calls, Duffy can't let it go.
It's not a good time to be a cop (nor anyone, for that matter during the Troubles.) Murders disguised as IRA hits, bombings, attacks on police were common. "Army helicopters flew low over the lough, sirens wailed in County Down, a distant thump-thump was the sound of mortars or explosions. The city was under a shroud of chimney smoke and the cinematographer, as always, was shooting it in 8mm black and white. This was Belfast in the fourteenth year of the low-level civil war euphemistically known as The Troubles. . ."I turned off the radio, made coffee, dressed in a black polo neck sweater, jeans and DM shoes, went outside. I checked under the BMW for any mercury tilt explosives but didn’t find any. Right about now seven thousand RUC men and women were all doing the same thing. One or two of them would find a bomb and after shitting their pants they’d be on the phone to the bomb squad, thanking their lucky stars that they’d kept to their morning routine."
masterfully recreates a dystopian world that was Northern Ireland for several decades, a world of almost unimaginable despair for those who had to live there. Those who could left, "went over the sea," as it were, to Scotland or England, or better yet, to America.
The ending will have you wondering where McKinty is going to take Duffy in volume 3. I, for one, will be very disappointed that the series will end with only three volumes. They are very good.
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