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The Cold Cold Ground (Detective Sean Duffy…

The Cold Cold Ground (Detective Sean Duffy 1) (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Adrian McKinty

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1801765,840 (3.95)22
Title:The Cold Cold Ground (Detective Sean Duffy 1)
Authors:Adrian McKinty
Info:Serpent's Tail (2012), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Read in 2012, Ireland

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The Cold, Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty (2012)



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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Adrian McKinty is a man who has drunk of the Pierian spring, and wants us to know it. But, as he might put it, doubtless explicitly mentioning Alexander Pope on the way, this writing well exemplifies that poet's adage that a little learning is a dangerous thing, for what learning there is here is worn, shall we say, rather heavily. I wonder are any of his readers as impressed as McKinty is by his range of reference, from ancient Greek mythology - and even orthography!! - via Cicero to Puccini and the Ramones? After all, who could fail to admire a Catholic 'peeler' in the RUC who refers to the works of Mozart by K number? But then again, who could believe in such a man?

If he sticks with it, the reader does get past the clumsy explications for our stateside friends, the inconsistent Americanisms in diction, the self-consciously aggressive, macho prose, the obligatory, unconvincing sex scene, the unnecessarily heavy-handed dollops of domestic detail, tying the events so very precisely to time and place, the equally unnecessary, and thus all the more irritating literary licence (or perhaps just mistakes) with similar reference to those same times and places; maybe McKinty doesn't remember Belfast in 1981 as well as he thinks he does.

And this is the problem: if McKinty himself could just get out of the way, this might make quite a good thriller - the last third or quarter really does get page-turningly unputdownable, although the denouement has rather the desperate and unsatisfying feel of the 'and then I woke up; it had all been a dream!' variety.

And none of this is helped by the frankly appalling copy-editing: someone at Serpent's Tale should be kneecapped.

So: Must try harder, Mr McKinty - or maybe not so hard? ( )
  jtck121166 | Jan 3, 2015 |
Brilliantly evocative of Northern Ireland and Belfast in the troubled early 1980s. Sean Duffy is a Catholic sergeant in the largely Protestant RUC, difficult enough on its own without having an inquisitive self-destruct streak. In this first story of a series Sean investigates what appears to be a homosexual killing but is unconvinced that there are deeper, sectarian motives at play. Despite the dark setting the story is enlivened by strongly drawn characters and witty dialogue written by someone with direct knowledge of the authentic places and times depicted. I particularly enjoyed an imagined exchange between Sean Duffy and Gerry Adams in the Maze prison. Highly recommended. ( )
  edwardsgt | Dec 22, 2014 |
A hard-boiled mystery from Northern Ireland that takes place during the "troubles". This audio version was ruined by a very poor narrator, Gerard Doyle. He may be of Irish origins, but tried so very hard to do a Belfast accent that it ended up monotone. The tough cop sounded feminine. Ridiculous analogies such as "Belfast was spread out before me like a great slab of meat in a butcher's yard" stood out with magnified importance. I may read more by the author but for now I'm done with McKinty. ( )
  VivienneR | Dec 8, 2014 |
This is Belfast in 1981 when the prisoners on hunger strike in The Maze fuelled nightly sectarian clashes between the IRA, UVF & police. Imagine living in a place where plumes of black smoke, burning buses, army check points & military helicopters are parts of daily life. And if you're a cop, our day also includes checking under your car each morning for a bomb.
Especially if you're Catholic like DS Sean Duffy. He lives among the prods in Carrickfergus & taking him out would be a coup for either side. He's smart, well educated & witty and mostly accepted by the old guard at the station. He's only been there a few weeks & is about to be tested.
Amid the general chaos, they catch an odd murder case. A UVF man is found shot in a burned out car with his hand cut off. Usually that indicates the victim was an informer, the lowest of the low but there are also decidedly homosexual undertones to his death.
The same night, a young woman thought to have run away months earlier is found hanging in the woods. Her ex-husband is one of the hunger strikers & it looks like suicide. When a second gay man is found dead, Sean is certain they have a psycho serial killer on their hands & it's almost a relief to investigate something not related to The Troubles.
With colleagues Matty & Crabbie, Sean begins to dig into the lives of all 3 people. It's not easy. The prod & catholic rebels are more interested in bombs & riots as they fight Thatcher's army. And every time one of the strikers dies, all hell breaks loose as another martyr is born.
I was struck by a couple of things as soon as I began reading. One is the atmosphere. You immediately feel the claustrophobic tension & fear of what is essentially a police state. The prose is evocative & flows with realistic descriptions of the city & its' colourful residents. These are resilient people who are just trying to survive while friends & family are killed and the city burns around them.
I also really enjoyed the dialogue. It's sharp, witty & suitable for the time. Colloquial terms are used throughout but easy to understand in context. Sean in particular has many of the best lines from laugh out loud personal observations to dryly sarcastic comments to colleagues. The humour provides the perfect foil to the unrelenting drama surrounding the investigations & the inclusions of real life characters such as Gerry Adams, Ian Paisley & Mrs. Thatcher add a genuine sense of place.
Two minor quibbles. First, Sean is apparently a chick magnet which is understandable due to his personality but I thought his relationship with a lovely pathologist would have been enough. A brief fling with a colleague was unnecessary (perhaps being in constant danger gives people an excuse to act out their frisky fantasies).
Second, the investigation of the murders was convoluted enough with all the secrets, hidden agendas & alliances but toward the end, all of a sudden an outside intelligences agency is added to the mix. It was superfluous to the plot & is used by the author as a deus ex machina. Sean's reaction & subsequent actions seemed out of character & led to a rather abrupt ending that telegraphs big changes to come in the next instalment.
Still, I really enjoyed this due to the setting & well developed characters. it's the first of a trilogy & I look forward to the next two. ( )
  RowingRabbit | Sep 14, 2014 |

A Catholic cop tracks a killer operating amidst the sectarian violence of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Spring 1981. Northern Ireland. Belfast on the verge of outright civil war. The Thatcher government has flooded the area with soldiers but nightly there are riots, bombings, and sectarian attacks.

In the midst of the chaos, Sean Duffy, a young, witty, Catholic detective in the almost entirely Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary, is trying to track down a serial killer who is targeting gay men. As a Catholic policeman, Duffy is suspected by both sides and there are layers of complications. For one thing, homosexuality is illegal in Northern Ireland in 1981. Then he discovers that one of the victims was involved in the IRA, but was last seen discussing business with someone from the Protestant UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force).

Fast-paced, evocative, and brutal, The Cold Cold Ground is a brilliant depiction of Belfast at the height of the Troubles and a cop caught in the cross fire.

"If Raymond Chandler had grown up in Northern Ireland, The Cold Cold Ground is what he would have written."
—Times of London

"Set against a backdrop of riots in the middle of the 1981 hunger strikes and the death of Bobby Sands, McKinty creates a marvellous sense of time and place; an evocation of darkness and horror, of corruption and collusion, . . . the immediacy of death and the cheapness of life. . . . There will be many readers waiting for the next adventure of the dashing and intrepid Sergeant Duffy."
—Irish Independent

"A literary thriller that is as concerned with exploring the poisonously claustrophobic demi-monde of Northern Ireland during the Troubles, and the self-sabotaging contradictions of its place and time, as it is with providing the genre's conventional thrills and spills. The result is 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."
—Irish Times
My take...

If there’s a book that might kick start my reading this year which has been laboured at best, this could well be the one. Smart, funny, interesting, compelling. I’ve enjoyed a couple of his previous books though it’s been a while since I last read him – Fifty Grand back in 2009. Too long really.

Funny how I love some authors, but don’t read them often enough…..why is that? Possibly because part of me still wants to savour the anticipation of opening a book from a favourite. Once I’ve started reading it though that feeling disappears. I suppose in some perverse way I enjoy the books I don’t read nearly as much as the ones I do………bizarre!

Anyway, I think this one could possibly be one of my best books of the year.

Northern Ireland, 1981, hunger strikes, Bobby Sands, IRA, The Maze, RUC, UVF, British Army, Gerry Adams, Maggie Thatcher, Sinn Fein, a couple of dead bodies, severed hands, homosexuality, bigotry and intolerance – religious and sexual, possible suicide, missing baby, Catholic police officer, mercury tilt bombs, riots, chaos, destruction, anarchy, tensions, civil war, mistrust, collusion, Special Branch, Ulster fries, drink, 80’s music, opera music, sheet music, protection rackets, postcards, mis-direction, informers, cottaging, pathology, black market goods, power worker strikes, Falls Road, Carrickfergus, Belfast, Larne, trains, forests, RPG’s, handguns, intimidation, knee-capping, snooker halls, red-white-blue kerbstones, murals, territory, protection rackets, MI5……….. a big sprawling mash-up of all these elements and more.

Great main character. Great support cast, with an interesting dynamic between Catholic Duffy and his Protestant colleagues. Great plot. Great sense of time and place in the narrative. I can vividly remember the time of the hunger strikes and the tension in the air at the time. Growing up Irish in Luton during the period this certainly takes me back and whilst I can’t look back at this episode with any great nostalgia, it’s a bit of a trip down memory lane in some respects – albeit one lived through from a distance - thankfully.

Verdict - 5 from 5

There are a couple more books from McKinty featuring Sean Duffy.
I Hear the Sirens in the Street (2)
In the Morning, I’ll Be Gone (3)

With a fourth book planned for 2015 – Sixteen Shells from a Thirty Ought Six

In the UK – McKinty’s books are available through Serpent’s Tail. In the US by Seventh Street Books.
Thanks to Lisa at Seventh Street for my copy. ( )
  col2910 | May 22, 2014 |
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In a 1981 Northern Ireland rife with sectarian violence, Catholic detective Sean Duffy investigates a serial killer who is targeting gay men--a series of murders that may have political implications as well.

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