As Book 3 of The Troubles Trilogy opens, it is autumn 1983, and Sean Duffy is coping with the consequences of the way things went down in Book Two, I Hear the Sirens in the Street. Stripped of his detective rank, he’s back in uniform and walking a patrol as a common copper (or “peeler,” in the local parlance). But even a common cop must be ready for uncommon violence when his beat is Northern Ireland in the 1980s. Terrorist bombs and sniper fire are part of the daily routine for Sean and his colleagues in the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).
But Sean Duffy’s problems are even more complicated. He’s a Catholic in an overwhelmingly Protestant police force, and he has never been willing to play the political game. Pissing off the wrong people is what has brought him down in the world as the story starts, and he’s about to fall farther still. As 1984 comes in, Sean finds himself holding a letter of resignation from the police force and deciding whether to sign it.
Not long after that, two mysterious visitors appear on his doorstep with a proposition. They’re from MI5 (Britain’s equivalent to the FBI), and if Sean helps get them what they want, they might be able to get him what he wants: out of disgrace and back on the force at his old rank of detective inspector. What MI5 wants is to track down a high-ranking IRA fugitive: the notorious Dermot McCann, who just happens to have been a schoolmate of Sean Duffy’s in his youth back in Derry.
So Sean is enticed down a path that forks in several places, bringing him face to face with his own past where it intersected with Dermot’s, and forcing him once again to choose a side in a war that has no winning side. One of the winding side paths Sean pursues has him struggling to solve a classic locked-room mystery, the answer to which promises to hold the key to Dermot McCann’s whereabouts. It’s all an incredibly enjoyable thrill ride and a highly combustible conclusion to a terrific trio of crime stories.
In Sean Duffy, Adrian McKinty has created a deeply lovable hard-boiled cop living in a brutal era, as much bedeviled by his inner Troubles as by the outer ones. As in the first two volumes, Gerard Doyle is absolutely aces at voicing Sean’s point-of-view narration, vividly evoking a time and place and all the people in it. The Troubles Trilogy is as good as it gets for thrilling cop stories that engage the heart and the mind equally. When you get to the end, you’ll be wishing there were a Book Four in the offing.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher as part of the Solid Gold Reviewer program administered by Audiobook Jukebox. No payment was received in return for a review. The receipt of the book had no influence on the opinions expressed in my review.