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on 1 November 2016
The Cold, Cold Ground has been reviewed multiple times by professionals and Amazonian amateurs alike. It was listed as a best book of the year by the London Times and won a few awards. As such, there shouldn’t be a lot more to say about it. It’s a great read, well-written, lyrical, pacey, edgy, a page-turner. You get the idea. For me, all those things are true. Most definitely true. In fact Sean Duffy, our conflicted ‘in oh so many ways conflicted’ hero is, for me, a marvelous reinvention of Inspector Morse, crossed with Lieutenant Columbo, with an added dash of Philip Marlowe, in some strange noir ménage à trois. Flavour the outcome with a brushing of Presbyterian dourness and a hefty seasoning of Catholic guilt and Duffy would be ‘Yer Man’. But, and I will admit I may have missed it, a quick scan of those reviews seems to leave out the crux of the book for me.

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.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 13 March 2016
It's May 1981, and Northern Ireland is on the brink of a complete breakdown of law and order, possibly even civil war. IRA prisoners in the Maze are on hunger strike, and when the first one dies the streets erupt in violent riots. In the midst of this mayhem, a man is found dead with his hand cut off. At first the police assume the victim was an informer, punished by one or other of the bunches of murderous nutters who held sway in NI at that time. However, when a second body is found, it appears that these killings may be nothing to do with the unrest – it looks like Northern Ireland might have its first serial killer, targeting gay men. It's up to Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy and his team to catch him before he kills again...

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.
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on 31 July 2017
I've not read a crime novel set against the background of northern Irish Troubles before. It is a risky subject to address as it is still a live subject for many people both within and out the province but I think the author successfully steers a safe passage. The book's central character is police sergeant Sean Duffy a Catholic living in a Protestant area and because he is not someone readily accepted by either community, he is semi-neutral and since the story is told from his perspective in the first person the reader is not asked to take sides. Whilst essentially a police crime story the setting and era (the 1980's) mean the book may also be described as historical fiction. The detailed descriptions of Belfast bring alive the city, which almost becomes another character in the story. The constant bombings and rioting and the inter community tension provide the story with a sense of almost permanent jeopardy. The plotting is clever and I found myself wanting to read on, which is always the sign of good read.
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on 5 April 2017
It's a week after the death of Bobby Sands, and Ulster is rioting. And Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy has a murder on his hands

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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on 3 March 2012
Conflict. That's what they say a good story needs, don't they? And Adrian McKinty's whipcrack of a crime thriller,The Cold, Cold Ground, has conflict in spades.

The Cold, Cold Ground is set in Northern Ireland in 1981 and of course there's a shed load of conflict between the Protestants and the Catholics; the Irish and the Brits; the military and civilians; the military and the cops; the cops and, well, everyone, it seems.

In the middle of this we have our protagonist, Sean Duffy.

Duffy is a cop. A Catholic cop. Living in a Protestant street. A smart mouthed psychology graduate trying to fit in with the mostly Protestant RUC. A square peg in round hole whose investigation into a fairly routine looking murder- a possible IRA execution - spirals off into the search for a homophobic, opera obsessed serial killer. And, of course, politics raises it's grubby, blood splattered head many times during the investigation, too.

McKinty recreates the edgy atmosphere of the times well - 'The smell of peat and diesel and fifty thousand umbilical cords of black smoke uniting grey city and grey sky'. He never wastes a word, moving us easily from scene to scene, and he has given us a very tasty crime novel indeed. Part police procedural / part thriller, The Cold, Cold Ground is a perfectly paced and flavoursome mystery.

The Cold, Cold Ground is also well sprinkled with cultural references and allusions from the Tom Waits title to The Crystals, Billy Wilder, George V Higgins, Rod Serling, The Last Boy Scout, Puccini, Serpico and more. Mckinty even smarly adds a Chekov gag to the mix without over egging the pudding.

Sean Duffy is the reason for the book, though, and in some ways The Cold, Cold Ground is a rites of passage story.The tale of a young man who is learning things about himself during the course of a murder investigation. A man whose world is changing just as he is.

And, I'm pleased to note, Duffy will be back since The Cold, Cold Ground is the first part of a Sean Duffy trilogy that promises to be an essential, short, sharp series.

The Cold, Cold Ground is a highly recommended five star read.
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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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on 6 August 2017
A really entertaining start to the series. I'm just starting to listen to the 6th book in the series narrated by the always reliable Gerard Doyle (Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly) I've had it ages but was saving it.
Most of the book is nonsense, but really entertaining nonsense, but watch out for the starlings.
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on 20 September 2017
This book is the first I have read by the author and it is a real genuine page turner. It gave a grafic description of the troubles in Ireland and the people. It is a great story with a few unexpected twists and is well written.I can thoroughly recommend this book a a really good read.
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on 19 August 2017
I was living in Belfast at the time in which this book is set. McKinty is spot-on with his depiction of the place and the madness and savagery of what was happening every day. It was a truly terrifying place to be as a civilian and it is interesting to read about fictional RUC viewpoints and experiences. The story is intriguing and I liked the use of real people and places in the narrative. It was hard to put down and at times it was laugh out loud funny. I've bought more of the series because I am now hooked.
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on 6 March 2017
I laughed out loud a lot. I like the plot, the characters and a look at Northern Ireland during the Troubles. I'll be back
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