RogerBW's Blog

Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly, Adrian McKinty 08 November 2023

2017 crime, sixth in the Sean Duffy series. Belfast, 1988: a heroin dealer is wounded by a crossbow bolt, and another is murdered. But for once it doesn't seem to have been the paramilitaries who did it.

There's a trick here which always irks me: in the prologue, Duffy is being taken to be shot by paramilitaries. It fits properly between chapters 15 and 16, and putting it at the start of the book suggests that the author doesn't feel confidence in his ability to engage the reader before the action starts.

And to some extent this is justified, because this is still Sean Duffy Emotional Idiot, except now he's actually trying to hold down a relationship while still trying to treat everyone in his life as machines that'll produce the right response if you press the right levers. I find reading about Duffy's smug self-satisfaction frankly rather tedious. Ah well. When it's balanced by something else, by investigation or action, it's fine, but at the start of the book it's up against the usual blind alley after blind alley, realistic but not engaging.

"You're a glass-half-empty kind of guy, sir, aren't you?"

"I don't even acknowledge the existence of the glass, son."

Still, once things do get moving it's good stuff – I think McKinty has finally found the right compromise between getting Duffy directly involved in historical events and leaving them entirely in the background. This time it's Operation Flavius in Gibraltar, and the events that followed – but while they cause disruptions in Belfast and more specifically to the RUC and Duffy, they aren't what the book is about.

I caught my balaclavaed reflection in the glass.

Why are you doing this, Duffy? Why do you always have to be so fucking theatrical? You weren't always this way. Don't you remember that row you had with your philosophy tutor at Queens when he was recommending the stance Camus takes in The Myth of Sisyphus? Melodramatic and narcissistic and false you called it. You were right then, you're wrong now.

This would have been a decent place for the series to end, with Duffy in a reasonably stable situation for once and having finally had the sense to get out of Belfast, but there are now two further books. Well, I'll give them a go.

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Previous in series: Rain Dogs | Series: Sean Duffy | Next in series: The Detective Up Late

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