In the third volume of McKinty’s (I Hear the Sirens in the Street, 2013, etc.) Troubles Trilogy, a disgraced Irish cop seeks redemption and an IRA terrorist.
In 1984, Sean Duffy’s career in the Royal Ulster Constabulary has taken a downward slide from detective inspector to sergeant to enforced retirement. He’s lost in a haze of hash and booze when two agents from MI5 offer him the chance to regain his former rank of inspector if he’ll find Dermot McCann, an escaped IRA leader who was Duffy’s schoolmate. McCann’s family refuses to help Duffy since he’s an Irish Catholic who had once begged to join the Provos and is now in the Special Branch of CID—he’s a traitor to the Republican cause. But Dermot’s former mother-in-law, Mary Fitzpatrick, secretly offers him an exchange. She’ll give him Dermot if he can discover who killed Lizzie, her youngest daughter, four years ago. The local police concluded that Lizzie broke her neck in an accidental fall when she was alone in her father’s pub, which was locked from the inside. The pathologist who did the post-mortem, however, had his doubts that her death was an accident. The further Duffy pursues the case, the more deeply entangled he becomes with the family, especially McCann’s ex-wife, and the more frustrated he gets with the lack of evidence supporting the murder theory. As new waves of violence rend Northern Ireland, Duffy’s hopes of making good on the deal with MI5 are looking increasingly bleak, until a break in the case points to the killer—and leads Duffy to a crime with further-reaching implications. The self-destructive maverick cop may be all too familiar a hero, but Duffy’s divided loyalties reflect the struggle for independence and the hope of reconciliation.
A grim reminder of the brutality, uncertainty and fragility of life in Northern Ireland in the 1980s.