Not content with a locked pub mystery that formed the centrepiece of 2014’s In the Morning I’ll be Gone, Adrian McKinty presents Sean Duffy with a locked castle mystery in Rain Dogs. Complete with wrought iron portcullis and giant gates, the central inquiry revolves around the suspicious death of a journalist overnight in the seemingly impregnable Belfast tourist attraction Carrickfergus Castle. Sean Duffy, world weary, cynical Catholic cop in a largely protestant police force, initially rules it suicide as he does not believe that he could be facing another locked room mystery. Surely that only happens to Poirot?
Rain Dogs opens with another historical mash up. An imagined visit of Muhammad Ali and to Belfast in the late 1980s to spread a message of peace. Duffy is as star struck as the rest of the populace by the appearance of the big man and marvels at his face off with a bunch of skinheads. The opening is classic McKinty – spot on period references, and that familiar narrative voice bringing long-time readers comfortably back into Duffy’s world and providing a short window for new entrants before the real mystery begins.
While the “locked room” element of the mystery is a little overdone and its solution is a little too pat, the heart of the book is the journey of discovery that Duffy takes and the truths that he uncovers along the way. The why, which revolves around the involvement of people at high levels in the abuse of children, is much more important here than the how. Given recent revelations in Australia surrounding institutional child sexual abuse, following on as it does from a similar long-running investigation in Ireland, many readers will be aware that Duffy (and McKinty) is only scratching the tip of the iceberg of this issue.
Rain Dogs has everything readers have come to expect from this series – an engaging mystery to drive the plot, an underlying historical issue to be investigated and as always, Duffy’s tragi-comic observations of Ireland in the 1980s. Duffy, like a dog with a bone, continues pushing the investigation as others try to shut it down, wading further from the help of his superiors and into more life-threatening waters. And, as always, there are relationship issues to juggle which, by the end of this volume, put Duffy on a new personal trajectory.