So, Adrian McKinty is quite thrilled with his Edgar nom for the second year in a row in the Best Original Paperback category. Last year’s nominees included his Gun Street Girl, which lost out by MWA and Literary Lunchbox-wise to Lou Berney’s Long and Far Away Gone. That being said, I really liked Gun Street Girl. And he has a pretty darn good shot at the Edgar this year for Rain Dogs.
The book is the fifth in the Detective Sean Duffy series. Duffy’s an Irish police detective (Carrickfergus CID) in late-1980s Ireland. He got to work security detail on Muhammed Ali’s visit to Belfast (good stuff), but his younger girlfriend’s moving out, he has to look under his car before he gets into it to make sure he’s not about to be blown up (those mercury bombs, one slip-up and you’re history), and his inept boss can’t even unravel a who-lifted-the-Finnish-big-shot’s wallet case (solution: one of his own traveling companions). On the plus side, he has a great team in Sgt. “Crabbie” McCrabban and DC Alexander Lawson.
One of the thing I love about the Duffy series is the tone – it’s written in the first person, and Duffy is a great character. He’s smart, capable, funny, wry, and eminently human. Bad stuff, scary stuff happens, and he handles it, but there’s not a hint of noir bleakness. (Not that I don’t also love noir!)
And the “misplaced” wallet cracks open a doorway into a much darker and complicated crime. The Finnish entourage include Mr. Laakso – a very big deal in Finland – and his colleague Mr. Ek, the twin nephews of the company owner, Nicolas and Stefan Lennatin, as well as reporter Lily Bigelow, on the scene to cover the visit, and Duffy’s former colleague Tony McIlroy, providing security. The Finns are there ostensibly to evaluate the location as a potential site for a mobile phone factory.
While in town, the group heads for the one real tourist destination, Carrickfergus Castle. And the next morning, Lily Bigelow’s body is found at the castle, an apparent suicide. Duffy has strong doubts about the suicide, but can’t figure out how she could have been murdered, because there is no way the murderer would not have been discovered along with the body. It’s a locked room mystery of the highest order. And it’s the second locked room mystery that Duffy’s faced in his career. Hmmm, what are the odds?
It’s not much of a spoiler to reveal that Lily did not kill herself. But why she was killed, what she was looking into, and how Duffy, Lawson and McCrabban figure it all out is a great read. It’s especially frustrating, once the truth is revealed, to see Mr. Ek slip out of Duffy’s clutches, and then particularly satisfying to learn how justice is served, quietly and without fanfare.
I understand that McKinty originally planned for the Duffy series to be a trilogy, and especially with this fifth book, how wonderful it is that he kept going! He is an assured writer, the book is well-plotted, the characters and camaraderie a plus, and the emotional connection growing. The break-up subplot has a twist at the end the ensures a new phase of life for Sean Duffy in book #6, which I anticipate eagerly – it’s out March 7 and titled Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly.
Compared to the other books nominated, Rain Dogs is just the work of a more mature and well-developed author. It’s the whole package and takes the top spot in the Literary Lunchbox Edgar ranking!
Literary Lunchbox Rankings: Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award, Best Original Paperback