RogerBW's Blog

In the Morning I'll Be Gone, Adrian McKinty 04 February 2023

2014 crime, third in the Sean Duffy series. In 1983, Sean Duffy finds himself fitted up and thrown out of the RUC, but destiny hasn't finished with him yet as he's brought back to track down one of the Maze escapees, an expert bomb-maker who's dropped completely out of sight.

I've been trying to work out what rubbed me the wrong way about this book, and I think the problem may be that McKinty expects everyone to love Sean Duffy as much as he does but doesn't do the groundwork to make it happen. Having an arsy attitude towards pomposity is can be justified if you actually have some skill or talent that means they have to put up with you anyway… but it's still not a positive trait, and anyway he doesn't. He's an OK detective who doesn't like to admit defeat, and that's about it. He treats people badly and is surprised when they treat him badly in return.

Another Land Rover arrived at our roadblock from Ballymena RUC and the coppers spoke in a dialect so thick we had trouble understanding them. Much of their conversation seemed to involve Jesus and tractors, an unlikely combination for anyone who doesn't know Ballymena.

So when Duffy is brought back onto the job by shadowy forces who don't admit they're MI5, I don't think "gosh, they're picking the right person for the job"; I think "hey ho, here are more people who have fallen for the Duffy Legend, they must have been listening to him down the pub". When all his other leads run out and he ends up, for much of the middle part of the book, haggling away at an old locked-room mystery, it feels like McKinty wanting to have an excuse to write a locked room mystery (and it's a good one) rather than because it's actually relevant to the plot.

I'll admit that a large part of my souring on this book came in the coda, after Duffy's involved himself in a major historical event in a way that to me feels disrespectful to the people who were genuinely there, when one of those MI5 types gives him the Grand Plan for why this all needs to happen, and exactly how Northern Ireland will turn out (obviously with the benefit of thirty years of hindsight) – and it feels rather too much like an Author's Lecture.

I'm increasingly thinking that these books are written for the American market, where many of them don't really know much about Northern Ireland at all except (in some places) for a vaguely positive impression of the old men collecting in the bar for Irish Freedom back in the day. Things which to me, remembering growing up in England in the 1980s, seem utterly obvious are explained in belaboured detail – including the overall political situation.

It's all right. When it doesn't annoy me, it's great fun, particularly the small detail work of investigation. Although the trilogy could reasonably end here, McKinty has continued the series, and I'll probably read another; but I can't help wishing he'd get closer to "a police procedural mystery, set in Northern Ireland" like the first book rather than "Sean Duffy, super detective and saviour of the world, ready with the right quip for any occasion, also every fanciable woman goes weak at the knees at the sight of him".

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Previous in series: I Hear the Sirens In the Street | Series: Sean Duffy | Next in series: Gun Street Girl

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