“Rain Dogs” – Adrian McKinty’s best Sean Duffy murder mystery? #bookreview

Rain Dogs

A Detective Sean Duffy Novel

Adrian McKinty

Seventh Street Books – paperback, Kindle, audible

Now that I have suckered you into this review with a question, I’m going to give you something of a cop-out answer: Rain Dogs is the best Sean Duffy detective story I have read…since the last Sean Duffy detective story I read, which is Gun Street Girl. I have now read all five Sean Duffy mysteries, and I am a rock-solid fan of each one. Adrian McKinty is one hell of a good novelist, and his Sean Duffy series is first-rate police-procedural fiction.

Rain Dogs did unnerve me for the first few pages–it got off to a bit of a plodding, unexpected start. What? Detective Inspector Sean Duffy is helping protect Mohammed Ali from adoring crowds in Belfast?

And, it takes a while for the mystery Duffy must solve to come into focus. Yet, there is also plenty of introspection and unease on Sean Duffy’s part, and this keeps the reader engrossed and the story moving forward. Duffy has reached a point in his career when midlife crisis suddenly is in full-tilt boogie mode.

He has grown weary of the sameness in his job, weary of the Troubles that keep Protestants, Catholics, and paramilitaries in violent conflict, weary of constantly having to check under his car for mercury tilt switch bombs placed there by one side or the other or by criminals wanting him dead. Meanwhile, it keeps raining, raining, dreary raining. And Beth, the latest woman in his life, has broken off with him and moved out, taking most of what’s left of his heart with her.

Meanwhile, things keep going from really bad to really worse for Duffy, a suburban cop in the Carrickfergus branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). He suddenly finds himself investigating the second “locked room” violent death of his checkered career. This time, it looks a lot like a case of suicide. And there is high-level pressure to wrap up the case quickly and put it away. A big business project with many potential jobs for Northern Ireland is on the line.

But Duffy, even when depressed, drunk or beaten down, cannot let go of the suspicions and strong sense of justice that keep him moving forward.

As a detective and empathetic human being, he never stops pushing against the rising tides of bureaucracy, burnout and self-doubt.

“I stared down at the body again. There was something not quite right about this crime scene, something that I was missing, but try as I might I couldn’t figure out what it was. Had Beth’s departure frazzled me, or was it just thirteen long years of this exhausting profession in this exhausting land?”

Not even pressure and criticism from British government agencies can turn him aside once he has a theory and starts following it.

At one point, after chasing a lead into Finland and back, he is confronted by a shadowy representative of an unnamed British agency that is trying to get him to quit the case, in the name of fifteen hundred potential jobs for Belfast and Northern Ireland:

“You must be aware of your RUC record. A less-than-stellar police career, no real high-profile convictions. The fact that you never found out who killed  Lizzie Fitzpatrick in that other so-called ‘locked room’ incident when you were with Special Branch. The fact that, for the last six years, you’ve been treading water here. A constant source of embarrassment to your superiors, a disappointment to your friends.”

To which Duffy retorts: “Maybe I’m not a great detective, maybe I ‘m not even a good detective, but I am fucking persistent….The UK government might not like it, the Irish government might not like it, but if I can make a case, the RUC will support me and the police down south will support me, too. Cops everywhere love nicking villains.”

Sean Duffy indeed is persistent. That is why he is able to solve cases that many other cops would not recognize, nor have the desire, energy and drive to pursue.

But, again, the strongest driver in Duffy’s life is his personal sense of justice. He will bend rules, strain budgets, knock heads, disobey orders, and sometimes even go around or straight through a few laws to get his hands–or his bullets–on a murderer.

Adrian McKinty fans and readers new to McKinty will find much to relish in Rain Dogs. Duffy is at his driven-down-but-rise-above-it best in this book. And some surprising changes occur in his life. If, with this book, you are new to the Sean Duffy series, get “the Troubles Trilogy” ASAP: The Cold, Cold Ground; I Hear the Sirens in the Street; and In the Morning I’ll Be Gone. Oh, and don’t miss the trilogy’s fine sequel, Gun Street Girl. One Sean Duffy tale, you may agree, is not enough.

Si Dunn

Advertisements

WRATH OF THE FURIES: Roman detective Gordianus the Finder tries to go undercover amid angry Greeks bearing arms – #bookreview

 

Wrath of the Furies

A Novel of the Ancient World

Steven Saylor

Minotaur Books – hardback, Kindle

As a young student, I deliberately avoided the ancient world—all of those armless and headless statues, magnificent carved-stone structures collapsed into rubble, “wonders of the world,” and gods and goddesses who allegedly had both magical powers and human frailties.

Now that I am somewhat older (okay, a lot older), I have read several of the 15 novels in Steven Saylor’s popular Roma Sub Rosa series of historical mysteries. The series features a clever Roman investigator known as Gordianus the Finder. Gordianus is a fictional character, but he encounters many of the ancient world’s real-life kings, queens, generals, political leaders and other figures while trying to solve murders and other crimes.

Thanks to Saylor’s expertise and irrepressible enthusiasm for ancient Roman and Greek times, I have found myself both enjoying his engaging fiction and pausing now and then to look up more about the people, places, things, and customs that Gordianus is encountering in each book. In other words, I am learning some eye-opening things about the ancient world and wishing I had gotten an earlier start.

In Saylor’s new novel, Wrath of the Furies, set in 88 B.C., Gordanius is a young man of just 22 and still somewhat subject to youth’s reckless belief in invincibility.  He receives a cryptic message, apparently a distress signal, from his former tutor and friend, Antipater, and decides to sneak into Greek-held territory to try to rescue him. Of course, this is at a dangerous moment. Greek forces led by the brutal King Mithridates are taking back Greek-speaking cities previously held by the Roman Empire. Some of Italy’s states also are revolting against Rome. So now is not a good time to be Roman detective snooping around amid angry Greeks bearing arms.

It is also not a good time for travelling with your slave (and lover), Bethesda, while trying to disguise yourself as a mute so your Roman-accented Greek won’t give you away. And it is an especially bad time to be going to the ancient Greek-speaking city of Ephesus (where King Mithridates now holds the home-court advantage), particularly when you don’t realize that sinister and powerful forces are drawing you in, and you must solve the mystery of Antipater’s message before it gets you and others killed.

Wrath of the Furies is a fine addition to Steven Saylor’s excellent Roma Sub Rosa ancient history-mystery series.

Si Dunn

 

 

 

 

 

‘Little Pretty Things’: An engrossing new mystery from Lori Rader-Day – #bookreview

 

 

Little Pretty Things

Lori Rader-Day

(Seventh Street – paperback, Kindle)

Lori Rader-Day already has proven she can write a good mystery. Her debut book, The Black Hour, won the 2015 Lovey Award for best first novel.

In Little Pretty Things, her forthcoming second novel, the Chicago writer gives us a most unusual investigator: a cart-pushing housekeeper and occasional desk clerk at a rundown cheap motel, the Mid-Night Inn. Juliet Townsend dropped out of college in her first year and went to work at the motel after her father suddenly died and her family’s finances quickly evaporated.

The author sets the scene quickly, with just enough seedy and telling detail. And she gets Juliet Townsend into trouble with the police fairly fast, as well. The housekeeper-desk clerk becomes the chief suspect in the death of a guest who could have easily afforded to stay in a fancier place, but wanted to see Juliet again just before their 10th high school reunion.

Madeline Bell and Juliet had been friends of sorts. Yet Maddy also had been Juliet’s main rival on the Midway, Indiana, high school track team. Maddy always ran faster and won the first-place trophies, while Juliet consistently finished second.

To prove her innocence and find Maddy’s killer, Juliet must somehow get ahead of someone else from her high school class, Courtney Howard, now a police officer who dislikes Juliet and seems determined to nail her for murder.

Available July 7, 2015, Little Pretty Things is an intriguing, entertaining mystery. It is rich with atmosphere, rich with some of the tense realities that people caught in deadend, low-wage jobs often have to face, and rich with desperate determination as Juliet begins her own investigation.

Si Dunn

GUN STREET GIRL: Detective Sean Duffy is back in action, by popular demand! – #mystery #fiction #bookreview

Gun Street Girl

A Detective Sean Duffy Novel

Adrian McKinty

Seventh Street Books – paperback, Kindle

At first glance, “Gun Street Girl” seems like the title for a cheap, unpromising paperback potboiler. But the good news is, it’s actually Adrian McKinty’s latest Detective Sean Duffy mystery.

Readers literally begged McKinty to keep Duffy alive after the novelist finished writing his “Troubles Trilogy,” which features Duffy as a detective in the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) during Northern Ireland’s civil and religious unrest and murderous violence in the 1980s.

The new book not only keeps Sean Duffy investigating murders amid great personal danger (he’s a Catholic cop working in a Protestant police station and living, at high risk, in a Protestant neighborhood). The book also brings greater depth and detail to the whys and hows of his character.

At one point, Lawson, a young cop, tells Duffy that he’s “not interested in promotion, I just want to do good for the community.” And Duffy tells him what an older cop, Dickie Bently, told hm during his first month on the job. “Dickie schooled me pretty quick in the ways of getting things done, Lawson. It’s not just ‘doing good,’ sometimes it’s doing bad too for the greater good, Lawson. It’s a bastard of a job.”

Indeed, Duffy sometimes goes well beyond the accepted limits and laws to achieve justice. He often bends or breaks rules, and sometimes he disobeys direct orders, especially when they get in the way of how he investigates.

In Gun Street Girl, Sean Duffy is fighting total burn-out while he tries to solve a grisly double murder and apparent suicide. Yet his investigative work soon starts uncovering very troubling links to high places, both in Great Britain and across the “pond.” Suddenly, danger is everywhere for Duffy, and the risk of assassination–by bomb or by bullet–now is very high. Meanwhile, he and other members of the Carrickfergus RUC must put aside police work occasionally, suit up in with riot gear and shields, and move into the deadly middle between warring Protestants and Catholics in Belfast and surrounding communities. There, they must endure bricks, firebombs, taunts and other threats to earn a little extra money.

If you’ve never read one of the Sean Duffy novels, Gun Street Girl can be a superb place to start. Then you will want to jump back and read the three books in the Troubles Trilogy: The Cold Cold Ground, I Hear the Sirens in the Streets, and In the Morning, I’ll Be Gone.

I have read and reviewed many detective novels, and Gun Street Girl now has emerged as my all-time favorite. I love its depth of character, its hair-trigger settings, its action, its twists and its turns. And I relish Sean Duffy’s dogged belief that justice must be achieved, no matter how tough or dangerous it can be to follow the necessary and ad hoc procedures.

Adrian McKinty is a master mystery writer. I hope his Detective Sean Duffy will stay on the job for a few more books, even if he has to give in to burn-out, retire from the Royal Ulster Constabulary and become a private eye somewhere else–Australia, maybe?

Si Dunn

THE BLUE JOURNAL: A dark, sexy detective novel set in affluent and murderous suburbia – #mystery #bookreview

 

The Blue Journal

A Detective Anthony Walker Novel

L.T. Graham

Seventh Street Books – paperback, Kindle

Anthony Walker had been a good street cop in New York City. But the dangers and grim realities he encountered every day eventually made him fear for the safety of his family. So he took a job as a detective on a suburban Connecticut police force. The move “meant a substantial pay cut and an increase in his cost of living. But Walker felt it was the right thing to do for his wife and daughters,” L.T. Graham writes in this intriguing novel that introduces the “Detective Anthony Walker” series.

Unfortunately, the job turned out to be boring for Walker. “Taken together, all of the incidents of vandalism and burglary he had handled over the past five years were considerably less dangerous than a single midnight-to-eight tour in his old Manhattan precinct,” Graham describes.

But what is worse is that the move also gradually destroyed his marriage, leaving Walker almost friendless and alone in an affluent town where he barely can afford an apartment.

However, a murder case–something very rare in Darien, Connecticut–is about to bring big challenges and big changes to Walker’s life in several ways.

On the one hand, Walker’s boss, Chief Gill, wants the case wrapped up quickly and as quietly as possible. On the other hand, Walker is still a New York cop at heart, and he is not shy about asking blunt, upsetting questions to some of the suburban town’s wealthy movers and shakers.

The murder victim has left behind some kind of diary that seems to brag about her sexual escapades with prominent men and women in Darien. The names are barely coded, and as Walker investigates, he learns that many of the people in the diary, including the victim, are associated in some way with a therapy group conducted by Dr. Randi Conway, “a tall, attractive blonde” psychologist who recently has aroused Walker’s interest. Walker thinks one of the people in the diary could be the killer. But Dr. Conway, of course, has to protect her patients’ confidentiality, even as she finds herself somewhat reluctantly being drawn to Walker–and is not yet aware that her life truly is in danger.

L.T. Graham’s new detective novel is a dark, sexy look at murder and entitled attitudes in affluent suburbia. And Detective Anthony Walker is the kind of dogged detective who just plunges ahead through the subtle and not-so-subtle barriers that keep being thrown in his way.

There is one other mystery within this well-written and entertaining mystery. “L.T. Graham” is a pen name. The writer of this new series is described only as “a New England-based suspense writer who is the author of several novels.”

Si Dunn

BLACK KARMA: A White Ginger Novel – Mystery and action in San Francisco’s Chinatown – #bookreview

 

Black Karma

A White Ginger Novel

Thatcher Robinson

(Seventh Street  – paperback, Kindle)

 

Life definitely is not easy for Bai Jiang, San Francisco’s best-known people-finder (souxun). As a beautiful, and single, female investigator, Bai gets hit on a lot, even by her ex-husband. People also try to hit her, shoot her, or otherwise kill her in some way.

Now she is being offered an arranged marriage that supposedly will give her a big stake in a 30-billion-dollar business–but might be a trap. Plus, she has been asked by a San Francisco police inspector to help track down someone allegedly involved in a botched drug deal that left a police officer dead. And Bai now has three teenage females living in her house–one is her daughter by her ex-husband; the other two are rescues: one from the sex trade and the other from a fearsome gang.

Meanwhile, someone has just tried to kill her investigative partner, Lee. And the person Bai is trying to locate may have some connections that go far beyond mere drug deals and murder.

This second novel in Thatcher Robinson’s new White Ginger series is full of twists, turns, complications, dangers and Chinatown atmosphere. And Bai Jiang is an appealing investigator: a Buddhist who is mostly fearless and definitely skilled with hidden knives, yet also vulnerable to romance, fashion and the plight of women who have been endangered and abused. Definitely recommended if you are looking for a new and unusual investigator to follow.

Si Dunn

 

 

DEADLY RUSE – In this 2nd Mac McClellan Mystery, Mac investigates a weird case while becoming a Florida P.I. – #bookreview

 

 

Deadly Ruse

E. Michael Helms

(Seventh Street – paperback, Kindle)

 

Fans of E. Michael Helms’s debut “Mac McClellan Mystery” novel, Deadly Catch, will be pleased with this fine new addition to the series.

In Deadly Ruse, Mac’s girlfriend, Kate Bell, thinks she has seen a ghost–specifically, a previous boyfriend who supposedly was killed at sea more than a decade ago, along with two other passengers when their boat caught fire and sank. Mac reluctantly begins to investigate and soon finds himself caught up in a very dangerous case involving drugs, diamonds, murder–and more.

Mac McClellan is an appealing everyman character. In Deadly Ruse, he is still trying to figure out what he wants to do next with his life, now that he has fought in Iraq and been retired from the U.S. Marines for a while. Sometimes, however, Helms lets the everyman angles go just a bit overboard, with Kate saying “Dang, Mac” too often and Mac making an occasional commonplace pronouncement such as “You take the proverbial cake” or “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

Deadly Ruse is set in the Florida Panhandle and briefly in Texas and Atlanta, Georgia, and Helms has a fine knack for blending real locales into his fiction. In this new novel, Mac manages to get his basic Florida private investigator’s license, while cracking a big case. But, under Florida law, he will have to continue interning for a detective agency for two years before he can go out on his own. Thus, the Mac McClellan Mystery series is now set up well for future cases.

E. Michael Helms is a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War and author of a combat memoir, The Proud Bastards, as well as a two-part Civil War novel, Of Blood and Brothers.

 — Si Dunn