STARRED REVIEW
March 23, 2016

Locked-room mystery in Northern Ireland

By Adrian McKinty

Rain Dogs, the fifth in Adrian McKinty’s Detective Sean Duffy crime series, glows with luminous portraits and firmly anchored scenes. Readers don’t have to search for some kernel of illumination in what the author is saying—it’s there in plain sight, a welcome change from many of the overstuffed tomes of the current day.

Share this Article:

Rain Dogs, the fifth in Adrian McKinty’s Detective Sean Duffy crime series, glows with luminous portraits and firmly anchored scenes. Readers don’t have to search for some kernel of illumination in what the author is saying—it’s there in plain sight, a welcome change from many of the overstuffed tomes of the current day. There’s barely a wasted word, and actions are never belabored—the phone never rings, you just get “Briiinnnggg.” Yet the book contains everything for the crime enthusiast, including a locked room (or should I say, castle), a brisk procedural, mystery with a noir look and great dialogue. It’s all set smack in the midst of the “Troubles” in 1980s Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Early one morning, a young journalist named Lily Bigelow is found dead beneath a high parapet inside the walls of the Anglo-Norman Carrickfergus castle, a tourist venue just outside Belfast. Search after search of the courtyard, dungeons and battlements appears to show that no one (unless it was the night watchman) could have killed her, though there appears to be no reason why she’d jump to her death.

Detective Duffy painstakingly retraces Lily’s tracks leading up to her death, delving into her recent conversations with fellow journalists and her assignment accompanying a Finnish trade mission to Northern Ireland as they decide whether to open a business in the Belfast area. Duffy is closely accompanied by Detective Constable Lawson, a cheeky, dead-smart lad full of dry observations—the perfect counterpoint to Duffy, who often wonders if the joke’s on him. Duffy is a flawed, vulnerable Irishman, 40-ish and struggling to convince himself—or maybe us—that his just-under-30 girlfriend isn’t too young for him. He’s fun and down to earth, and he talks to the reader in abbreviated sentences, so we’re drawn right into the snap of the book’s dialogue.

Pointedly, McKinty makes us aware of the daily dangers in Northern Ireland, as Duffy checks his car for bombs before each trip. The tragic murder of one of his colleagues is expressed simply, with stark effect. On the other hand, Duffy is full of humorous asides about his colleagues: “I said hey to some grizzled old cops who looked like rejects from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.”

McKinty’s writing is so good it makes your head spin, and Rain Dogs has it all: intriguing plot, good Irish humor and a straightforward telling.

Trending Reviews

Get the Book

Rain Dogs

Rain Dogs

By Adrian McKinty
Seventh Street
ISBN 9781633881303

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!