McKinty mystery further explores ‘The Troubles’

I do love it when crime writers change their minds.

Here’s an example: The Scottish novelist Ian Rankin briefly broke my heart when he retired his grouchy fictional sleuth John Rebus. Eventually he relented. The Rebus series continues. I can be happy again.

This happens fairly often. Philip Kerr wrote a trilogy of novels featuring his noir Berlin detective Bernie Gunther. Then he stopped. Many years later he finally started writing about Bernie again. There will be a new book coming out soon.

Some time ago I chanced upon a crime novel called “In the Morning I’ll Be Gone” by Adrian McKinty. It was described as book three in the Troubles Trilogy. Ian Rankin’s blurb on the cover piqued my interest. He wrote that McKinty’s previous book ” ‘I Hear the Sirens on the Street’ blew my bloody doors off!”

These books are set during the period of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. They are fabulous. I began hoping that McKinty would write another. He recently fulfilled my wish by publishing a fourth book in this series featuring Detective Sean Duffy. McKinty was born and raised in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, during that period of sectarian violence. These novels possess a gritty realism that feels very genuine.

“Gun Street Girl” takes place in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1985. Duffy is one of the only Catholic officers in the Protestant (RUC) Royal Ulster Constabulary. As the story opens he is among a contingent of police hiding along a beach while waiting to pounce upon some gunrunners.

While he was waiting he was also hoping that his good luck would hold because “I am a member of the RUC, which is the police force with the highest mortality rate in the Western World.” The constant tension and stress of his job has been wearing him down. This is a man who never starts his car without first checking the undercarriage: “I looked under the BMW for bombs and got inside.”

Rankin’s Rebus and McKinty’s Duffy have this in common; they enjoy spinning their classic record albums. In “Gun Street Girl” Duffy has finally gotten home after his duty on the beach. He unwinds by inhaling some cocaine he had taken from the police evidence room. Sipping his vodka gimlet. Sam Cooke is playing on the stereo. Then the phone rang: “I picked up the phone. ‘This better be good.’ ”

There’s been a double murder; let the investigation begin. The evidence seems to indicate that a young man murdered his parents then went and jumped off of a cliff. He left a note. Duffy isn’t buying that straightforward analysis-he’s an unconventional thinker. Before “Gun Street Girl” can surge to a thundering conclusion this will become a tale of international intrigue. We have gun runners, arms merchants, spies, a rogue American agent, and Detective Sean Duffy trying to make sense out of it all. Don’t worry about reading these novels in any chronological order. Each one can stand upon its own.

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Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at vick@vickmickunas.com.

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