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The Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty
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The Cold, Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty is the first book of the Detective Sean Duffy mystery series set in 1981 Carrickfergus, north of Belfast in Northern Ireland. The story begins at the time of the hunger strikes by IRA prisoners, shortly after the attempt on the Pope's life, prior to Charles and Diana's wedding. Daily life amid the violence is vividly described in detail, down to the songs on the radio, movies and shows on TV (all from McKinty's firsthand experience: born & raised in Carrickfergus, lived there through the Troubles).

Sean Duffy is new to the local Royal Ulster Constabulary force. He's an outsider due to religion (Catholic in a Protestant stronghold) and university education, so he has to prove himself to his colleagues on the force. He's assigned a murder case and two officers to assist him (manpower is stretched too thin to properly staff a murder investigation). The first murder is soon followed by a second, with gruesome evidence linking the crimes beyond any doubt.

Duffy meets a kindred spirit in pathologist Laura Cathcart; an intimate relationship quickly develops. When the third body is discovered, both agree it was staged to look like suicide but isn't. The killer sends messages threatening more victims (homosexuals) if the case is not publicized in the news. Duffy believes he's hunting a serial killer, although his RUC colleagues tell him it would be the first serial killer in Northern Ireland. Duffy's investigation brings him face-to-face with several leaders of opposing paramilitary groups. As the murders continue, killing any potential witnesses, Duffy senses the crimes are not only connected, but designed to mislead him. Who is behind it all, and why?

When Duffy needs to inspect a crime scene or interview suspects, he and his team must wear full riot protective gear, and drive an armor-plated Land Rover. They are fired upon with automatic weapons as they attempt to follow up on clues. Before driving a car, they had to check underneath for tilt bombs, rigged to go off when ascending or descending a hill. A grating over a manhole on the road might conceal a bomb inside, with watchers waiting to remotely trigger it. When Duffy starts to close in on the killer, he is awakened in the wee hours by a 6-man execution squad in balaclavas.

Quite a scary environment, compared to my sheltered middle-class life in the suburbs. I frequently paused to puzzle over words and phrases; a short glossary is at the end. The writing style is a treat: crisp and concise. I look forward to continuing the series.
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Reading Progress

February 15, 2012 – Shelved
Started Reading
June 22, 2020 – Finished Reading

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