Review: Adrian McKinty – I Hear the Sirens in the Street

Adrian McKinty, I Hear the Sirens in the StreetAdrian McKinty’s The Cold Cold Ground was my favourite read of 2012 so I was looking forward to the next book in the series. Post-Christmas England is a miserable place and after living in a Mediterranean country for the last four years, I wanted something to combat the January blues. At first glance, a crime novel set in the Troubles in the early 1980s might not seem the ideal read but McKinty’s books are written with humour and have page-turning plots. I also find this particular series fascinating as it is set in the recent past, featuring real life characters that I can remember well from the time.

I Hear the Sirens in the Street opens with the discovery of  a torso in a suitcase. A tattoo on the body suggests an American identity of the victim but the suitcase is traced back to a farm where the husband of the owner was murdered by the IRA. Newly promoted DI Sean Duffy suspects something is amiss with the original murder inquiry but his investigations are thwarted by the local landowner with links to the car manufacturer John DeLorean who has just set up a plant in the country.

As I’d expect from McKinty’s books, this was an enjoyable read. Sean Duffy returns with a police medal in recognition of his escapades in the first book. However he remains the music listening, joint smoking detective with the chaotic love life that was so enjoyable. The foibles of the RUC are given a wider view here, home to alcoholic policemen who joined up for what would have a been a relatively easy job before the Troubles began. We also get a sense of the conflicts with the other law agencies: army, special branch and MI5 in addition to US intelligence. I had forgotten all about the DeLorean case and it fascinating was to read a fictional take on era when government money was being pumped into an enterprise that seems doomed from the start.

The background of both the Troubles and the onset of the Falklands War gives the narrative a sense of anything is possible which helps the slightly OTT action, especially towards the end. The novel finishes on a sombre note and it will be interesting to see where book three takes us. With McKinty anything is possible.

The author’s website is here. I bought my copy of the book which has also been reviewed at The View from the Blue House and The Game’s Afoot.

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My Top Five Crime Reads of 2012

According to Goodreads I read just over 150 books in 2012, about three quarters of which was crime fiction. I reviewed 102 books on crimepieces and discovered some great authors whose books, although not published in 2012, were highlights of my year. These included Deon Meyer’s Trackers, Ashes by Sergio Gakas and Aly Monroe’s Icelight.

However, I’m going to restrict my best reads of 2012 to those published this year. The benchmark as to which books made it onto my list was not whether I had recommended them to other readers but whether I had also actually forced a copy onto someone who I thought would like it. With the exception of Where the Devil Can’t Go which is (for the moment) available only as an e-book I have done this with all of these titles.

So here are my top 5 reads of 2012.

1. Ben H Winters –  The Last Policeman

The Last Policeman

A great concept very well executed. Who would have thought the end of the world could be so interesting?

2. Adrian McKinty – The Cold Cold Ground

The-Cold-Cold-Ground-Adrian-McKinty1

The first in a series featuring Catholic policeman Sean Duffy. Set in 1981 during the Troubles, I wanted to read the sequel immediately.

3. Anya Lipska – Where the Devil Can’t Go

Anya Lipska

A murder set in the heart of the Polish expat community in London. Great depictions of London and Poland and some memorable characters.

4. Elizabeth Hay – Alone in the Classroom

Alone in the Classroom

I’m not sure if this is a crime book at all, but death and retribution feature strongly in the narrative. A beautifully written book.

5. Louise Welsh – The Girl on the Stairs

TGotStairs

Genuinely spooky and with a strong sense of malevolence, it gives an alternative view of Berlin’s bleak suburbs.

So five great books and if I had just to choose one it would be Adrian McKinty’s The Cold Cold Ground. The sequel I Hear the Sirens in the Street is out in January and I’m already looking forward to it.

What was your favourite crime book of 2012? I’d love to hear what was your best read.

Review: Adrian McKinty – Falling Glass (audio)

This is my first review of an audio book because, although I’m a subscriber to Amazon’s Audible account, to date I’ve only ever downloaded books that I’ve already read in print form. But last month, stumped for something to listen to, I contacted Bernadette from Reactions to Reading. As readers of Bernadette’s blog will know, she regularly reviews audio books and she suggested I try Adrian McKinty’s Falling Glass McKinty is a relatively new author for me, although I enjoyed the excellent Cold Cold Ground, so I was interested to give one of his earlier books a go.

Rachel Coulter, the ex-wife of the famous Irish airline entrepreneur Richard Coulter, has disappeared with their two children. Although he has information that she is hiding out at one of Ireland’s caravan parks, an attempt to seize back the children ends disastrously. Killian, fresh from a successful debt collection job in New Hampshire is called in by Coulter to track down Rachel and retrieve the missing children. Killian is confident that he will find the missing family and is successfully on Rachel’s trail when Coulter’s team realise that she is also in possession of an incriminating laptop. They hire a tougher enforcer to follow Killian and ensure the laptop is retrieved at any cost. Markov, a former Russian soldier and veteran of the Chechen conflict ensures that a routine job becomes a murderous spree.

The early part of the novel takes you from Boston on St Patrick’s Day, to a wealthy beach town in New Hampshire and a gang leader’s ranch in Mexico. However, when the threads of the story start to come together, it is the descriptions of Ireland that leave a lasting impression. As Rachel runs from one hide-out to another we are given descriptions of windswept holiday parks teetering on the edge of Europe with the sound of the Atlantic roaring in the background.

The pace of the story comes and goes which I thought was a clever way of presenting what could be just a straightforward thriller. Markov is clearly the villain of the story although the damage caused by his participation in the Chechen conflict is also made clear. The scenes where he and Killian battle it out provide plenty of tension although Killian seems forever out of his depth. In the final part of the book, leading up to the denouement, the pace slows right down and we are given an insight into the Pavee culture that is Killian’s background. This interesting section highlights the history of the Irish travelling community and its identity distinct from the Romany culture.

My only regret is that I would have preferred to read this first. Audio books will never replace the written word for me, but listening to the novel has made me want to read more of the McKinty’s earlier books featuring Michael Forstythe who plays a minor but memorable role here.

I bought my copy of the audio book. Other reviews (of the print version) can be found at Eurocrime and Review from the Blue House. The author’s website is here.

Review: Adrian McKinty – The Cold Cold Ground

Adrian McKinty’s The Cold Cold Ground has been garnering some excellent reviews and after reading it in one sitting I can see why.

The story is set in 1981 in Northern Ireland during The Troubles with the newspapers full of the Republican hunger strikes in the Maze prison, the forthcoming royal wedding between Charles and Diana, the recent shooting of the Pope and the ongoing trial of the Yorkshire Ripper in England. It is a hugely evocative period and McKinty couldn’t have chosen a better time to highlight the political and religious disparities in Carrickfergus, the small port town where the book is set.

Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy is a Catholic RUC policeman living on a Protestant sink estate on the fringes of the town. When two homosexual men are killed, Duffy fears that a homophobic serial killer is on the loose despite his superior’s efforts to link the killings to sectarian violence. Duffy is also intrigued by the case of a missing girl, Lucy Moore. With an ex-husband on hunger strike in the Maze, when her body is found her death is ruled suicide despite unexplained marks on her neck and no satisfactory motive.

The book, I felt captured the mood of the period with the roadblocks, burning cars, and police visits to Catholic neighbourhoods in full riot gear. The book was an interesting mix of period realism and light-hearted cultural references to the early 1980s. So, for example, the reality of The Troubles with opposing paramilitary organisations carving up territory for their protection rackets was interspersed with references to popular music of the time. There were also some sly references to the future inserted into the book; the coming of the DeLorean factory designed to bring prosperity to the area and the date of armageddon prophesied by an evangelical preacher.

The character of university educated Sean Duffy had some interesting features. His sexual encounters were slightly out of the ordinary but fitted in with the tone of the book. I’m not normally keen on real people popping up in fiction but here the larger than life personalities would have been hard to ignore. The presence of Gerry Adams, for example, gave the book a solidity so that we weren’t just dealing with a fictional murder but also the realities of political life at the time.

The MI5/Special Branch characters were also interesting, more ‘Our Friends in the North‘ than George Smiley. They ranged from the man in the tweed suit to the stony faced thugs but I’m never sure if either of these types are representative of the personalities of the British Security Service. I would have preferred if the book had ended before Duffy’s trip to Italy but appreciate the final ending ultimately showed the complicity of those in authority in many of the events taking place.

Ultimately it was impossible to put the book down, as much for the crime plot as for the setting. It is the first in a trilogy and I’m looking forward to the rest in the series.

Thanks to Gemma at the Harrogate Festival for my copy of the book.

The book has been reviewed by many of the national newspapers and on-line at crimesquad.com, Petrona, Fair Dunkum Crime and Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog.

Adrian McKinty’s website is here.