Detective Inspector Sean Duffy of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (Rain Dogs, 2016, etc.) tries to cut back on the smoking and do decent police work despite bombs, riots, and bureaucracy.
By 1988, the Troubles have turned any high-minded nationalism, loyalist or republican, into little more than a front for drug runners and sociopaths. Still, no one trusts the likes of Duffy, a Catholic taking the king’s shilling. When a penny-ante heroin dealer is found dead, the only surprise is that he was shot with a crossbow. For once, the paramilitaries aren’t claiming credit for wiping out the scourge of drug dealers (read: their competition), and the silent, untraceable, and perfectly legal crossbow is a devilishly clever murder weapon. The victim’s widow, Elena Deauville, has clearly been smuggling their stock in from Bulgaria, and though she’s not talking, Duffy knows she knows something. Meanwhile, Duffy’s posh, Protestant girlfriend, Beth, wants to move to a posh, Protestant house. When Duffy hesitates, Beth packs herself and their baby off to her parents’. The brass are pushing Duffy to write off the case—no one cares about a dead criminal—when Elena disappears. While Belfast riots, Duffy uncovers a part of Ulster’s bloody history casting its long shadows over his case, as over everything else.
McKinty’s hero is irreverent, charming, and mordantly, laugh-out-loud funny, and his eclectic personal soundtrack and bitter, pragmatic politics make for vivid period detail.