The Cold Cold Ground: A Detective Sean Duffy Novel
Publish Date: 2012-11-13
Author: Adrian McKinty
Spring 1981. Northern Ireland. Belfast on the verge of outright civil war. The Thatcher government has flooded the area with soldiers, but nightly there are riots, bombings, and sectarian attacks.
In the midst of the chaos, Sean Duffy, a young, witty, Catholic detective in the almost entirely Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary, is trying to track down a serial killer who is targeting gay men. As a Catholic policeman, Duffy is suspected by both sides and there are layers of complications. For one thing, homosexuality is illegal in Northern Ireland in 1981. Then he discovers that one of the victims was involved in the IRA, but was last seen discussing business with someone from the Protestant UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force). Fast-paced, evocative, and brutal, this book is a brilliant depiction of Belfast at the height of the Troubles and a cop caught in the cross fire.
From the British and Irish reviews:
If Raymond Chandler had grown up in Northern Ireland, The Cold Cold Ground is what he would have written.
--Peter Millar, The Times
Adrian McKinty is fast gaining a reputation as the finest of the new generation of Irish crime writers, and it's easy to see why on the evidence of this novel, the first in a projected trilogy of police procedurals.
--Doug Johnstone, The Glasgow Herald
Written in a terse style, the novel is a literary thriller that is as concerned with exploring the poisonously claustrophobic demi-monde of Northern Ireland during the Troubles, and the self-sabotaging contradictions of its place and time, as it is with providing the genre's conventional thrills and spills. The result is a masterpiece of Troubles crime fiction: had David Peace, Eoin McNamee and Brian Moore sat down to brew up the great Troubles novel, they would have been very pleased indeed to have written The Cold Cold Ground.
--Declan Burke, The Irish Times
He manages to catch the brooding atmosphere of the 1980s and to tell a ripping yarn at the same time. There will be many readers waiting for the next adventure of the dashing, funny and intrepid Sergeant Duffy.
--Maurice Hays, The Irish Independent
What makes McKinty a cut above the rest is the quality of his prose. His driven, spat-out sentences are more accessible than James Ellroy's edge-of-reason staccato, and he can be lyric. The sound of a riot is the distant yelling like that of men below decks in a torpedoed prison ship . The names of David Peace and Ellroy are evoked too often in relation to young crime writers, but McKinty shares their method of using the past as a template for the present. The stories and textures may belong to a different period, but the power of technique and intent makes of them the here and now. There's food for thought in McKinty's writing, but he is careful not to lose the force of his narrative in introspection. The Cold Cold Ground is a terrific crime novel, fast-paced, intricate and genre to the core.
--Eoin McNamee, The Guardian.
Tropes are tropes for good reason. The important crime-fiction ones are present and accounted for here -- a serial killer who purposely leaves clues, a cop who's on to him, procedural and forensic nitty-gritty. Yet McKinty can startle with bouts of lyrical scene-setting that could only come from the fingertips of someone who grew up in the environment. He tells us of arcs of gasoline fire under the crescent moon... The scarlet whoosh of Molotovs intersecting with exacting surfaces. Helicopters everywhere: their spotlights finding one another like lovers in the Afterlife.