The Cold Cold Ground (Detective Sean Duffy) Paperback – 5 Jan 2012
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The Cold Cold Ground is a razor sharp thriller set against the backdrop of a country in chaos, told with style, courage and dark-as-night wit. Adrian McKinty channels Dennis Lehane, David Peace and Joseph Wambaugh to create a brilliant novel with its own unique voice (Stuart Neville)
It's undoubtedly McKinty's finest . . . Written with intelligence, insight and wit, McKinty exposes the cancer of corruption at all levels of society at that time. Sean Duffy is a compelling detective, the evocation of 19802 Northern Ireland is breathtaking and the atmosphere authentically menacing. A brilliant piece of work which does for NI what Peace's Red Riding Quartet did for Yorkshire (Brian McGilloway)
McKinty's prose is a master-class in vicious poise . . . Be in no doubt that this novel is a masterpiece: had David Peace, Eoin McNamee and Brian Moore sat down, they would have been very pleased indeed to have written The Cold Cold Ground (Declan Burke)
The Cold Cold Ground is a fearless trip into Northern Ireland in the 1980s: riots, hunger strikes, murders - yet Adrian McKinty tells a very personal story of an ordinary cop trying to hunt down a serial killer' (John McFetridge)
McKinty's The Cold Cold Ground has got onto on my five best books of the year list as it is riveting, brilliant and just about the best book yet on Northern Ireland (Ken Bruen)
The Cold Cold Ground confirms McKinty as a writer of substance... 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... The Cold Cold Ground is a crime novel, fast-paced, intricate and genre to the core. (Eoin McNamee Guardian 2012-01-07)
Adrian McKinty is the voice of the new Northern Irish generation but he's not afraid to examine the past. This writer is a legend in the making and The Cold, Cold Ground is the latest proof of this (Gerard Brennan)
Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy could well become a cult figure... McKinty has not lost his touch or his eye for the bizarre and the macabre, or his ear for the Belfast accent and argot. ...McKinty creates a marvellous sense of time and place... 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 and intrepid Sergeant Duffy. (Maurice Hayes Irish Independent 2012-01-07)
McKinty (has) a razor sharp ear for the local dialogue and a feeling for the bleak time and place that was Ulster in the early Eighties, and pair them with a wry wicked wit... If Raymond Chandler had grown up in Northern Ireland, The Cold Cold Ground is what he would have written. (Peter Millar The Times 2012-01-14)
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.
At times The Cold Cold Ground has the feel of James Ellroy, the prose is that focused and intense, but then there are moments of darkest humour, with just a hint of the retro feel of Life On Mars thrown in.
The complex plotting and acidic dialogue here are the equal of any crime writer around, and the story rattles along at a breakneck pace, but there is also an earthy eloquence to McKinty's prose that raises it above the level of the average police procedural.
Detective SErgeant Sean Duffy could well become a cult figure... McKinty manages to catch the brooding atmosphere of the 1980s and to tell a ripping yarn at the same time' (Maurice Hayes Belfast Telegraph 2012-01-14)
The setting represents an extraordinarily tense scenario in itself, but the fact that Duffy is a Catholic in a predominantly Protestant RUC adds yet another fascinating twist to McKinty's neatly crafted plot... 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 Irish Times 2012-02-06)
... an entertaining mix of good police work and desperate action as the young officer careers around Belfast, from one suspect to the next and back again, leaping to wrong conclusions but building his case... The tension makes for outstanding fiction. (Jeff Glorfield Melbourne Age/Sydney Morning Herald 2012-02-04)
Impressive... has a black humour reminiscent of Jacobean drama (John Dugdale Sunday Times 2012-03-04)
A cracking read, hugely entertaining and unrelentingly exciting (Sunday Herald Sun, Australia 2012-03-18)
Sizzles with ambient dread... Your reviewer was born the year The Cold, Cold Ground is set in, and such passages work better at painting a picture than any episode of Reeling In The Years... It's probably safe to say that Irish crime fiction's current purple patch won't be fading any time soon. (Sunday Independent (Ireland) 2012-04-01)
There is enough in McKinty's quirky and surprising style to make further Sean Duffy mysteries a prospect to be relished (Australian Financial Review 2012-03-30)
The Cold Cold Ground marks the emergence of an author who has the potential to become a major figure in the crime arena (Canberra Times, Australia 2012-05-05)
Witty, intelligent and teeming with broad cultural references and dazzling action set-pieces, this novel leaves you hungry for the next book in the triology (West Australian 2012-05-08)
Once again, McKinty proves himself a seriously brilliant novelist, his flair for language matched by his remarkable feel for place, well-known appetite for redemptive violence and seriously cool appreciation of characters who reject conformity. (The Australian 2012-06-02)
Spring 1981. Northern Ireland. Hunger strikes. Riots. Power cuts. A serial killer with a penchant for opera. And a young woman's suicide that may yet turn out to be murder. On the surface, the events are unconnected, but then things - and people - aren't always what they seem.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
It is McKinty’s acute observations and the layering on of an atmosphere that, for anyone who was there at the time, recaptures perfectly north-east Ulster in the early eighties. The novel is for the most part set in May 1981. The Hunger Strikes. I remember what it felt like and this Carrick-cum-Melbourne author, only a couple of years younger than me, obviously knew it too and captures it superbly. Yes, he plays with the acronyms and the names, yes he weaves a blend of fact and fiction into the narrative to blur the lines between truth and reality, but in the feel of the places, the oppressive nature of mass-unemployment, the knowledge of a future that was bleak, and looking bleaker by the minute, he gets it absolutely spot-on. Like he does with the humour and the speech of the people involved. In parts, I would laugh out loud, reminded of phrases that I have long ago stopped using, for there aren’t many around me now who would know what a sleeked wee shi## was. But that’s okay. McKinty does and I am so pleased. I’m off to indulge in a deluge of Duffy. I recommend you do the same.
The book starts out well. McKinty has a great writing style and paints an authentic seeming picture of NI at the height of the Troubles. The book is told in the first-person past-tense from Duffy's viewpoint and he gives a good insight into the various divisions and factions that ruled the streets in those days. He also shows how socially conservative this small part of the world still was, even more than mainland Britain. The book touches not only on the victimisation of homosexuals but on the question of unmarried motherhood – shown as a thing so shameful that women would attempt to hide pregnancies, abandon their babies, or even, in some cases, commit suicide.
Duffy and his team are all likeable characters, and the interactions between them provide some humour which prevents the story from becoming too bleak. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) was, of course, a major target for the IRA and Catholic officers in particular were seen as traitors, selling out for English gold. McKinty shows Duffy as a Catholic who, like the vast majority, wants peace and in his case is prepared to put himself at risk to be part of achieving it, as many did in real life, too.
So there are many good things about the book. Unfortunately, however, credibility begins to nose-dive early on and eventually crashes into the set of a second-rate Bond pastiche. First off, a Catholic police officer is ridiculously unlikely to have bought a house in a Protestant stronghold at that time, unless he really had a death wish. The idea of him having a police issue sub-machine gun lying about on his hall table for weeks (just so's it'd be handy when the plot required it) is ludicrous. That Willie Whitelaw, then Home Secretary, would ever have phoned a low-ranking police officer on behalf of MI5 is laughable. Et cetera, et cetera. And the ending, which obviously I can't discuss, is like something out of a low-budget Bruce Willis rip-off.
I think part of the problem is that McKinty may be aiming for the American market, and using words like “gasoline” instead of “petrol” reinforced that feeling. The more ridiculous the plot became, the less authentic the rest of the book felt to me. The quality of the research in the earlier part of the book means that I feel it must have been a deliberate choice rather than lack of knowledge for McKinty to veer so far beyond the credibility line as the book progressed – I suspect the words “movie deal” may have been on his to-do list.
A couple of final, brief criticisms. It'd be great if just once he could introduce a female character without immediately assessing her sexual attractiveness and/or willingness. I know that's a noir tradition, but, you know, traditions don't have to be followed slavishly once they become outdated. And, as with so much modern crime, the book is way too long for its content – there's about a hundred pages in the middle that could have been cut with no loss.
Hard to rate – I found the first half very enjoyable, which made my disappointment with the long dip in the middle followed by the implausibility of the rest greater than it would otherwise have been. It works reasonably well as a slow thriller, but doesn't live up to its early promise of giving a realistic picture of the difficulties of policing Northern Ireland in the midst of the Troubles.
But it isn't sectarian. Oh no. At first glance it looks a bit like proddies killing fenians or vice versa. But there's a difference. And it's starting to look as if the RUC have got a serial killer. One that isn't getting his kicks from the political struggle.
Well it's a great book. Nothing is black and white here. There are at least fifty ambiguous shades here and probably more.
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