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by Adrian McKinty
Seventh Street, November 2012
325 pages
ISBN: 1616147164

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

1981 in Ireland is a chaotic time. The conflict over the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the relationship between Protestants and Catholics known as The Troubles had begun in the 1960s. By the 1980s, it seemed as if the country were in a constant state of warfare. Riots, explosions and sectarian attacks were commonplace. According to Wikipedia, the violence was characterized by the armed campaigns of Irish republican and Ulster loyalist paramilitary groups. This included the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), and the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

Detective Sean Duffy is a Catholic who lives and works in a Protestant community. Surprisingly, he hasn't been targeted personally or professionally, although he isn't totally trusted by either camp. However, he's well aware of his precarious situation—every day before he goes to work, he checks under his car for a bomb. In the middle of all the chaos, a killer pops up who is murdering gay men. Homosexuality is illegal, and the appearance of a non-political serial killer is unheard of. Sean is assigned to lead the investigation. At the same time, he is looking into the disappearance and suicide of a young woman, although his superiors warn him against doing so with the political situation demanding all their resources.

Duffy becomes convinced that the murders are not necessarily sexual in nature, although the evidence makes them seem so. He is up against a brilliant killer, an arrogant man who overestimates his own intelligence. At times, Duffy becomes a bit of a loose cannon; he is convinced (often wrongly) that he has figured out what is going on and is relentless in following his gut, even when it involves illegal and unethical actions.

THE COLD COLD GROUND is a superb book. In addition to developing likable and complex characters, McKinty does an exceptional job of depicting Northern Ireland in 1981, interweaving real historical events (e.g., the hunger strike and death of Bobby Sands) into the narrative. It's mind boggling to see how people accept the chaotic situation as normal.

THE COLD COLD GROUND is the first book in "The Troubles Trilogy." McKinty's evocation of the time is perfect; although it is a dark and troubling place, I can't wait to return to the scene once again.

§ Formerly a training development manager for a large company, Maddy is now retired and continues to enable the addiction of crime fiction fans as owner of the online discussion group, 4 Mystery Addicts(4MA), while avidly reading in every possible free moment herself.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, December 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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