The structure of trilogies must have some appeal for McKinty, not just because he has previous form. From the outside you can see that it could be quite a challenge to build a character's life and explore events in a proscribed number of books. And then it's over. For this reader it's a very bitter sweet experience. Especially when, from book number one, this series cemented itself as a big part of January's expectations.
Part of the appeal is obviously the central character Sean Duffy. An outsider in his own country and his own community, it's that viewpoint that makes him such an effective policeman. Not only is he not beholden, he sees everything in a slightly different manner. That idea of the cop as the ultimate outsider's nothing new, but there's something about the way that McKinty has built this scenario - within the framework of the Troubles - with the complications of religion, and ethnicity muddied further by cops versus crims, and the branches of the cops versus each other. It's a multi-layered environment drawn out elegantly by some clever, atmospheric and pointed story telling.
It also doesn't hurt that IN THE MORNING I'LL BE GONE opens with one of those openings we've come to expect:
"The beeper began to whine at 4.27pm on Wednesday, 25 September 1983. It was repeating a shrill C sharp at four-second intervals which meant - for those of us who had bothered to read the manual - that it was a Class 1 emergency. This was a general alert being sent to every off-duty policeman, police reservist and soldier in Northern Ireland. There were only five Class 1 emergencies and three of them were a Soviet nuclear strike, a Soviet invasion and what the civil servants who'd written the manual had nonchalantly called 'an extra-terrestrial trespass'."
From that moment on, until the final page is read, and the book is hugged just a little bit, the story builds. Set as it is in the time of the Troubles, there are cultural references throughout - music, clothes, and to the complications of life at that time. There's classical music references which cleverly reflect Duffy's mood and thinking, and there's humour. Beautifully dry, clever, dropped into the middle of conversations, type humour:
"I had to admit that he was impressive. You noticed the hair first. Kennedy hair was far in advance of anything Ireland had to offer. It was space-age hair. It was hair for the new millennium. Irish hair was stuck somewhere in 1927. Kennedy hair had put man on the fucking moon."
Built into all of the cultural and personality there is also a solid plot, interwoven with a good old fashioned locked room mystery. Which works - not just because of the timeframe, it's a good brain teaser. But the main focus remains that most difficult of issues, well known from the Troubles - terrorism and the IRA. Weaving the fictional into fact worked particularly well here, putting the timeframe into a definite context, and providing a real sense of the threat, and the grievance which gave rise to it.
If you're a fan of McKinty's books you'll also notice a Michael Forsythe cameo. Elegantly done and informative / clever into the bargain.
But then informative, clever, engaging and an undeniable favourite, IN THE MORNING I'LL BE GONE most definitely was. The only downside is that it's the third in the trilogy, and it's impossible not to feel very sad about that.