Monday, March 15, 2021

I Hear the Sirens in the Street: Adrian McKinty

Back in August 2018, I read the first book in the Sean Duffy series, The Cold Cold Ground, set in Belfast in the early 1980's, during the Irish Troubles. I Hear the Sirens in the Street is the second book in the series, which was originally intended to be a trilogy, but has stretched out to six books. Duffy is a Catholic cop in a primarily Protestant police force. 

Synopsis from the author's website...

Sean Duffy knows there’s no such thing as a perfect crime. But a torso in a suitcase is pretty close. Still, one tiny clue is all it takes, and there it is. A tattoo. So Duffy, fully fit and back at work after the severe trauma of his last case, is ready to follow the trail of blood – however faint – that always, always connects a body to its killer. A legendarily stubborn man, Duffy becomes obsessed with this mystery as a distraction from the ruins of his love life, and to push down the seed of self-doubt that he seems to have traded for his youthful arrogance. So from country lanes to city streets, Duffy works every angle. And wherever he goes, he smells a rat …



This novel is a great read. Sean Duffy is a likable character, a good cop who always wants to solve his case, to the point of stubbornness and ignoring the instructions of his superiors. There are lots of references to the events and fads of the times, and music and books that he enjoys.

The Falklands War begins during this novel, which does help place this story in the context of the time setting, at least for someone like me who was an adult at the time.

There are the grim realities of the life of a "peeler" (policeman) in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. This is Sean getting ready for a day at work:

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.

I stuck on the radio and listened to Brian Eno on the short drive to the barracks. Wasn’t a big fan of Eno but it was either that or the news and I couldn’t listen to the news. Who could, apart from those longing for the end times.

The solving of the crime is somewhat problematic, as the case drags on and on and Sean won't let go of it. That does lead him to getting involved with John DeLorean, by way of Sir Harry McAlpine, who is related to a man whose death they are investigating. I was not familiar with the story of DeLorean and his car factory in Northern Ireland, near Belfast. So that part was very interesting, and I looked up more about John DeLorean when I was done with the book.


So, I really enjoyed this book. A decent mystery, and I gained more understanding of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and learned about John DeLorean. Of course, this leaves me wanting to get the third book in the series... and I don't need to be adding any more books to my TBR piles.

There are lots of reviews available but I wanted to share Rob Kitchin's review from 2013, at The View from the Blue House.

It is Reading Ireland Month at Cathy's blog at 746books and this is my first read for that event. I picked a very good read for that event, and soon I will be starting The Secret Place by Tana French.



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Publisher:  Seventh Street Books, 2013.
Length:      318 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Series:       Sean Duffy #2
Setting:      Belfast, Northern Ireland
Genre:        Police Procedural
Source:      Purchased at the Planned Parenthood booksale, 2019.



21 comments:

CLM said...

I read his new book, The Chain (I was going to say last summer but it turned out to be August 2019) and found it very entertaining (set in Massachusetts but as I recall it could have been anywhere). I wondered what his earlier books would be like and wrongly assumed he'd been languishing in obscurity. Well, I suppose that still might be true but no longer.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I read the first two and then stopped. Not because I didn't like them but just because there is so much out there now.

Cath said...

I find it very difficult to read anything about the Northern Ireland Troubles. I suspect this is because we lived through it for years over here and it's too raw, too much senseless carnage. Glad you enjoyed this though.

Margot Kinberg said...

I agree with you, Tracy, that this series really does an effective job of depicting Ulster during the Troubles. McKinty's quite good creating an atmosphere, I think. Glad you enjoyed this one.

TracyK said...

Cath, your reaction sounds like how I feel when reading anything that touches on race relations in the American South. Years ago, I stopped reading one when I was 50% done because I could not bear the thought of what was coming in the book. I generally avoid books set in the South because they are uncomfortable reading for me.

I never have understood much about the situation at that time in Northern Ireland, and this book helped a bit, but I know that a brief look at the topic could not give me a full understanding.

TracyK said...

Constance, I was interested to learn that McKinty quit writing at one point (in 2017) because he wasn't making enough money at writing to contribute to his family's income. He was winning awards but the books did not sell enough to make significant money. Luckily some people took note of this and helped him out and he then wrote THE CHAIN. Unfortunately many writers have similar situations without such a happy ending.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jul/08/adrian-mckinty-interview-crime-novelist-the-chain

TracyK said...

Patti, I run into the same thing. There is so much worth reading and no way to read it all.

TracyK said...

Margot, there were two things I especially liked about this book. The picture of Northern Ireland at that time from the point of view of a policeman. And secondarily, all the references to culture and historical events at that time, when I was in my early thirties. That put it into context for me in a way I had not experienced before.

Rick Robinson said...

Like Cath, I skip books set in Northern Ireland. I did know about DeLorean making cars there, though.

TracyK said...

Rick, All I really remembered about DeLorean was the DeLorean used in Back to the Future. His life was interesting and ultimately sad.

CLM said...

Interesting article. I had never heard of Don Winslow until the last 9 months or so when I keep seeing him on Twitter. I surveyed his books in the library last month because I wanted to support him but they did not look like my thing at all; however, how nice of him to support another author in this way.

When I was an editor, I only did women's fiction but it was amazing how little we offered author, sometimes as little as $3k or $4k. I told them not to quit their day jobs but they all longed to do so.

TracyK said...

Constance, I have looked into Don Winslow's books also, and especially his most recent books appear to be too violent, etc. for me. But I am determined to read something by him. Maybe I will go back to an earlier series and try that.

IzaBzh said...

I'm so glad you loved it, that series is great ! I have read the first four books, I need to get on with the others :)

Peggy Arthurs said...

Tracy, this is a new to me author and I will definitely be looking for these books!

TracyK said...

Iza, sorry that I missed your comment earlier. Glad to know you enjoyed the first four books. Eventually I will add more of them to my TBR.

TracyK said...

Peggy, this is definitely a series to try. Very realistic, not a feel good series.

James Lawther said...

I really enjoyed Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly"

McKinty brings a whole new meaning to gallows humour.

Thanks for reminding me of him, I shall buy another.

TracyK said...

James, thanks for commenting. I would not say that I Hear the Sirens in the Street has a cliffhanger ending but I do want to know where the story goes from there. So I need to be looking for the next book in this series.

col2910 said...

Thanks for the reminder of this series. I really don't know why I have read more than the opener. Too many other books I guess.

col2910 said...

*have.... doh - haven't!

TracyK said...

Same here, Col. I start so many series, like them, and have good intentions of continuing, but run into other books that distract me.