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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 2011
Only having read one Adrian McKinty novel "Fifty Grand" I didn't know what to expect with this one. This book is set in McKinty's home territory of Northern Ireland during the early 1980's, an era I knew almost nothing about. This book is also a police procedural about a police officer on the trail of a homophobic serial killer. There are many unusual aspects to the case but what stands out the electrifying atmosphere of Belfast in middle of chaos, the witty banter between the police officers and the character of Sean Duffy who is a sympathetic and funny central protagonist. As an ordinary Detective Sergeant in the northern Irish police, Duffy is not a superman: he is intelligent and observant but he's believeable. He's not Sherlock Holmes. He makes mistakes, takes wrong turns and is sometimes hotheaded. I've read a lot of books in this genre and I think this is one of the very best ones. The Cold Cold Ground is a great novel and you will not be able to put it down.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 December 2011
"The Cold Cold Ground" is the first of a planned trilogy of police procedural novels featuring Sean Duffy. Set in 1980s Northern Ireland it's a little reminiscent of the TV show "Life on Mars", full of reminders of the music and events of the period that evokes nostalgia in those who lived through it. In all good police procedural novels, the hero has to have a "thing" that sets him apart. With Duffy it is that he is a Catholic in a predominantly Protestant police force. What this means is that no one trusts him on either side of the religious divide. And as this is set during the worst of the "troubles" with hunger strikes and rioting on the streets, not to mention car bombs and other acts of violence, this is a big issue for him.

Duffy has two cases to solve, which may or may not be related. The main one centres on what appears to be a homophobic serial killer at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in Northern Ireland while the second involves the disappearance of a young girl who is the ex-wife of one of the hunger strikers. Both appear to be unrelated both to each other and to the "troubles" but perhaps not. The serial killer story line involves a lot of homophobic language which was rife at the time which some may find offensive by today's more enlightened standards, but McKinty is very good at evoking the period and this is, to my mind, entirely justified.

McKinty is also good at what might be called "locker room banter" within the police force. In fact, dialogue is always one of his strengths. He has a good ear for it and it's often very amusing. Moreover, the author has previous form in writing trilogies with his excellent series featuring the anti-hero, the hitman Michael Forsythe. Writing trilogies is not easy but there is evidence to suggest that McKinty will carry this off with aplomb. In fact this edition ends with a taster for the next in the series "I Hear Sirens in the Street" and it looks promising. I will be first in the queue to read the next installment. This may not be his best work (I preferred his Forsythe trilogy), in my opinion, but it's still highly readable and entertaining.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
As an Irish police procedural, The Cold, Cold Ground is right up there with Brian McGilloway's Inspector Devlin and John Brady's Matt Minogue series. In fact, it might just be the best example of a police procedural so far produced on the island. It's pretty difficult to pick holes in any aspect of the story, with perhaps the exception of forgetting to return a submachine gun left on the hall table back to the barracks for two whole weeks (not the kind of item that would escape one's attention). McKinty immerses the reader in Carrickfergus and Belfast in 1981 - its politics, its riots, its policing, its fashions, music and social relations, its sense of place, without it ever swamping the narrative. The attention to detail is excellent. Sean Duffy is a complex, flawed and bright lead character, out of his depth and desperately trying to stay afloat amongst paramilitary groups and police and security service politics, and determined to solve the two cases. He's surrounded by a well realised support cast, some of whom are real figures, other fictional characters. The plot twists and turns and is nicelyy paced, and McKinty shows his usual flair for poetic prose. A great read from an author who consistently turns out interesting and insightful books. The only let down - I have to wait for the next Duffy book to be published.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 12 February 2015
Against the advice of some reviewers I read the "fourth novel in the trilogy" first, Gun Street Girl, and it was so good that I bought the three that went before straight afterwards. This is where things kicked off for a Catholic cop in a Protestant police force in 1981 Northern Ireland. A cop who is tasked with finding the killer (or killers) of two gay men and one divorced woman - although it's far from clear that the woman's death is connected. The Troubles take front and centre stage at most times, with numerous real-life events and characters (such as the prison hunger strikes and Gerry Adams) woven tightly into the script.

Adrian McKinty is a talented writer, of that there can be little doubt. There are hints in his style of Chandler and Ellroy, but make no mistake: McKinty has an identity very much his own and has a seemingly natural ability to create engaging characters (mainly Sean Duffy) and to inject both pace and pathos into the narrative. One of the many appealing features of the style - and one that is absent from many other works of crime fiction - is a sense that the reader is right there with Duffy in terms of knowledge of what's going on. Sometimes in other tales the reader knows more than the leading character, and in a few cases less, but here there's a story-length touch of reality inasmuch as Duffy is just as baffled as to who killed who and why as the reader is. We're there with him, by his side, and at times it really does feel as if Duffy is telling the story to us; we are the audience surrounding him and we won't know the outcome until he tells us.

The relative simplicity of the tale and the short, sharp prose belies the cleverness beneath it all. The concluding chapters feel slightly rushed, but McKinty improves with age and experience as Gun Street Girl later testifies. Definitely a class act, one of its few weaknesses being a shortgage of humour in the dialogue which is so evident in the most recent novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is the first of four Sean Duffy books. Belfast 1981: H Block and the dirty protest, Bobby Sands has died on hunger strike, riots and, the daily check of wheel arches for bombs . Sean Duffy newly promoted to Detective Sergeant is a rarity, a Catholic policeman in the RUC. Not only that, he lives in a Protestant community with a local paramilitary as a nearby neighbour.

In contrast to the constant rain and grim aspects of life, the first chapter opens poetically; “Arcs of gasoline fire under the crescent moon. Crimson tracer in mystical parabolas. Phosphorescence from the barrels of plastic bullet guns. A distant yelling like that of men below decks in a torpedoed prison ship. The scarlet whoosh of Molotovs intersecting with exacting surfaces. Helicopters everywhere: their spotlights finding one another like lovers in the Afterlife”. A body is found with a hand sawn off and a hand placed on the chest. Is this a paramilitary execution of an informer? The post-mortem may point in another direction, as the hand is from someone else. An extract of Mimi’s aria from La Boheme and other cryptic clues could suggest a homophobic serial killer. Then there’s the interplay of the IRA, Sein Fein, and the UVF in this distorted reality.

The plot is more complex than the subsequent books and, the outcome is well concealed. As in the later books, fiction and fact are intermingled such that Gerry Adams makes an appearance. Sean Duffy’s maverick character is clear from the outset. It would be tempting to say that this is the best of the four books.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 January 2013
Now that the Troubles are over and Northern Ireland is in a so called Peace Process, although only time will really tell. Many writers are coming out of the wood work and daring to spin yarns using well recognised political figures and events to tell stories of life in Northern Ireland during the troubles. Previously such daring risked a bullet or a beating at least, if you came to the unwanted attention of the God fathers and their minions, but now in this new so called era everyone and everything has the potential for a spin to be put on it. And this book certainly does that in spades !!!

Telling a story of a homophobic serial killer, whilst using the back drop of the 1980's Hunger strike and subsequent rioting, references to the Royal wedding, an assassination attempt on the Pope and various other events of the time. Using thinly disguised names of known terrorist would, had it been written just a few short years a go resulted in a long drive, in the boot of a car from Carrickfergus to a lonely unmarked peat grave somewhere close to the border. But now those same God fathers somewhat delight in their notoriety. Lets now forget however, there's still many people missing who's crime was not telling a piece of fiction to the world but telling the truth to the authorities.

If I take myself and my knowledge of growing up in Northern Ireland out of the equation, I still find myself asking some fundamental questions about the amount of inaccuracies in the book particularly in relation to police procedures. i.e like bringing home an SMG machine gun fully loaded and leaving it lying on the hall table for two weeks in a known UVF stronghold ....doh......yes I know its a story and the author has the right to weave his plot but please this stretches it to the limit.

Putting that and the clearly political slant to one side this is a good read and a page turner, I read it in a couple of days. It has some very witty moments in it and some great observations of Belfast Lough and the surrounding area. What really lets the book down is the ending, the author should have left off the last chapter it wasn't necessary and would have been a more believable albeit far fetched ending.

I will definitely download the other book in the series

I Hear the Sirens in the Street: A Detective Sean Duffy Novel (Troubles Trilogy)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 1 April 2012
I enjoyed The Cold Cold Ground. It was a thrilling read and I couldn't put it down. I stumbled across it on the Amazon Daily deal for £1 on the Kindle, so it was also great value for money! In hindsight I would have been prepared to pay normal retail value for it so, overall, it must have been a good read.

The Cold Cold ground is a police procedural novel set in the early 80's in Carrickfergus, a suburb of Belfast, against the backdrop of The Troubles. The novel is the first of a trilogy based around the career of Detective Sean Duffy.

Duffy is a young Catholic Detective living and working in a Protestant town and is a member of a predominantly Protestant workforce. Our somewhat unusual protagonist is tasked with solving a bizarre series of murders; a serial killer (a rare beast in Nothern Ireland) is on the loose and terrorising the gay community. Duffy and his colleagues need to find that murderer before he kills again. Meanwhile, what has become of Lucy Moore?

The author has taken great pains to make Sean Duffy seem normal, human, believable. He makes mistakes, he gets drunk, he chases women when he should be on the job, he listens to a lot of great music, he has a soft spot for his flashy BMW. Despite his flaws, he ventures into the abyss time and time again to search for the truth behind the bizarre murders.

McKinty has done a really great job of capturing the claustrophobia, paranoia, tension and fear which pervaded the streets of Belfast at the time. The hunger strikers frequently make an appearance in the novel as do full-scale riots, bombs, roadblocks, burning vehicles, moustachioed Protestant terrorists and rhetoric-spouting Republicans. Local expressions are sprinkled nicely through the novel, but not in an overpowering way. Its been along time from I've seen quare, pochle and sheugh written down. Don't remember the last time I saw them in a book.

Mckinty, I have since learned, was brought up in Carrick at this time, and as such must be drawing from his own experiences to allow him to write with such authority and authenticity. That said, there are times when I didn't think the events in the novel were credible - a Catholic police officer, living in a Protestant housing estate, being dropped off directly at home by a Police landrover, while wearing full armour and sporting a Sterling machine gun, at the height of The Troubles? Nope, definitely not, categorically wouldn't have happened. This would have made Duffy an instant target for the paramilitaries. Standard operating procedure at that time was to drive to and from work in plain clothes, then get changed into uniform at work. Anything less, at the time, was suicide. The incident I speak of, above, appeared at the beginning of the novel, and I was in two minds about continuing to read. I was glad I did as this was one of only a very few flaws I found in the book. Some may consider the ending to be flawed as the closing events of the novel seem a little far-fetched.

Overall, I recommend The Cold Cold Ground. McKinty has received a lot of praise from literary critics for his work so far, and has won several awards. Based on this book, its easy to see why. I think I'll now try to read some more of McKinty's books, I think they'll be good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Cold Cold Ground
The story is set in Northern Ireland in the early 1980s, when Thatcher was in power, and hunger strikers were headline news around the world. The key focus is on Detective Sergeant Duffy and how he manages in his new role at Carrickfergus CID.

McKINTY, who is the author, surely demonstrates some very unusual twists and turns in the story - which you'll have to read to discover what they are. However, what McKINTY achieves is a good clear picture of what life was like in Northern Ireland in 1981. For many of us, we can not imagine what society was like: constantly checking our car for bombs; police officers routinely having guns; the attitude of hate towards someone just because of a different religion; being a Catholic Police Officer in Northern Ireland. But McKINTY tries to show that when all of this is mixed together, life as a Police Officer continues, and that any crime, no matter what it is, has to be investigated.

There are two significant cases for investigation, and Duffy needs to show that he is competent and a leader when it comes to these. The two cases are totally different, one appears to be a suicide, but Duffy thinks that there was more to the suicide than original thinking, and the other is what may be a serial killer. But, as the victim was a gay man, no one cares. This is Northern Ireland in 1981 and society considered gay men to be either sick, perverted or criminal. So, there won't be any resources for Duffy to use to investigate. When a second gay man is killed, this hardly makes the news. Even Duffy's own colleagues aren't that keen to investigate.

Duffy emerges out of the investigations having upset, angered, and at times infuriated his bosses, politicians and others. What is quite difficult is to understand who and what all the different groups are that become mentioned. For someone who doesn't really know the history of Northern Ireland during the last 50 years, I found that at times I was skating over some of the detail. Sure, I could have looked up the abbreviations, and what they are (UDA, UVF, QUB, DMSU, GAA), but also some of the key areas, such as Crumlin Road, Falls Road. At times, I realised that my knowledge of Northern Ireland and the conflict that took place was inadequate, for example, what the differences are between the various groups such as the Ulster Freedom Fighters, and the IRA, but McKINTY has made me eager to learn and to understand more of what happened over there.

I also smiled, because the term "peeler" was used throughout the book, a term I had long forgotten about.

Although the book deals with the investigation of murder at a time when the police were not welcomed by many sections of society, McKINTY manages to blend in a relatively humorous style of writing with the seriousness of Northern Ireland in 1981. I enjoyed reading the book, and will look forward to other books that McKINTY writes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 2 April 2012
Adrian McKinty describes The Cold Cold Ground as being a police procedural, but I'm not sure that's entirely accurate. Set in Carrickfergus during the hunger strikes and riots of 1981, it's a mish-mash of detective story, political thriller and pulp novel, which gives the overall impression of an uneven read.

Sean Duffy is your standard cop character for this type of fiction: young, ambitious, awkward, out to prove himself, and he meanders between someone you have some degree of interest in, and someone who is little more than a cardboard cut-out. Certainly in the latter stages of the book, his escapes from violent death are wildly improbable.

Central to the action is the political situation in Northern Ireland at the time, so in amongst the fiction, we have walk-on parts for the likes of Gerry Adams, a phone-call role for Willie Whitelaw; hints at the goings on of M15 agents etc - but these touches don't always work and feel a bit phoney at times.

The actual plot unravels in a rather unlikely fashion in the concluding chapters, and McKinty almost looks like he's running out of ideas as he brings things to a strange conclusion. It's certainly readable enough, but at times it feels like a cut and shunt between several different styles. The strongest element of the writing is McKinty's knowledge and love for music, but that alone can't save an inferior thriller.

Ken Bruen it's not, with McKinty displaying a more comic-book style of writing for the most part, with some underlying subtelty and depth on occasion, but it's hard to see how writing like this will sustain a satisfying planned trilogy.

The Kindle version contains an extract from the next volume in the series and a short biography of McKinty, which adds to the interest. At one point, the price of the e-book version was 0.99p - which given the quality was probably just about right. It's okay - but nothing special.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 12 February 2012
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Cold Cold Ground is a police procedural set in the chaos of 1981 Belfast, Northern Ireland. A man is found dead in his car : he has been shot and his hand cut off. Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy, who has just moved to the area and taken up a new post at Carrickfergus CID, is given the case, with two colleagues to help. Attending the autopsy, Duffy is embarrassed to be told by the pathologist, Laura Cathcart, that the hand does not belong to the victim. She also provides him with some more evidence that indicates that the killing is not a straightforward impulsive deed or a political execution.

Duffy and colleagues soon track down a second victim, whose corpse contains similar clues in addition to the first victim's hand. Apparently, there has never been a serial killer in Ireland because, it is said, anyone of that mindset can easily find an occupation working for the IRA or the UVF. The next 200 pages follow Duffy's attempts to investigate the crime against a background of violence. Bobby Sands, the Maze hunger striker, has just died so there are riots and strikes in the city, not to mention terrorist attacks. Duffy and his colleagues are attacked when they try to follow up leads in Belfast's "no go" areas, and they are hampered by the fact that homosexual acts are illegal as well as abhorred by IRA and UVF alike - nobody is interested in helping the police investigate an apparent homosexual crime.

Brennan, Duffy's boss, suddenly hands over to him another case: that of a missing woman called Lucy Moore. Lucy is the ex-wife of another Maze prisoner who has just begun to participate in the mass hunger strike among the Maze prisoners who are attempting to force the British government to give them what they regard as their basic human rights. Lucy vanished a few months ago on a pre-Christmas shopping trip. When her family began receiving postcards from her saying that she was well, the police lost interest, but the case was not closed. It isn't long before Duffy hears that a woman's body has been found hanging in some nearby woods: sure enough, the body is Lucy's.

For 200 pages, this novel is an assured police procedural replete with convincing period details, really making the reader see and feel what it must have been like trying to maintain law and order under such impossible and dangerous circumstances. Not only are there so many political factions, but Special Branch and MI5 are involved, making it hard for Duffy and colleagues to obtain the background information they need about their suspects and witnesses. Duffy becomes obsessed with the clues that the presumed serial killer has left and continues to send, as well as being convinced in his mind that the Lucy case is somehow connected. The author weaves a completely believable universe, with real-life figures such as Gerry Adams and Margaret Thatcher making brief appearances. In one of many nice touches, Duffy and Laura are both Catholics - very much a minority in a mainly Protestant city - the scenes in Duffy's street are wryly amusing.

The last 100 pages of the book are less successful. Frustrated by his lack of progress, Duffy goes for the all-out approach of accusing everybody of everything, presumably to spark some response. The result is an alternating mixture of approvingly described violence and great tracts of exposition from one character to another which have a deadening effect. Nevertheless, Duffy and his colleagues and neighbours provide a vivid and solid framework for future investigations.
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