I've been meaning to do a review of this book for a while now. The Cold Cold Ground is the first in a noir series about detective Sean Duffy. The book is set in 1981 during the troubles in Northern Ireland. The series stars detective Sean Duffy, who is in rather unfortunate situation where he is a Catholic police officer in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The book literally opens a week after the death of bobby sands and the day of the riots after the death of Francis Hughes. The book is both a murder mystery and a tale of what it was like in Northern Ireland during those times. The writer Adrian Mckinty grew up in Northern Ireland during the troubles and the fact that he is a protestant doesn't give a huge impact to how he views the situation, the book is written in first person from the perspective of a catholic officer. It opens with the lines
“The riot had taken on a beauty of its own now. Arcs of gasoline fire under the crescent moon. Crimson tracer in mystical parabolas. Phosphorescence from the barrels of plastic bullet guns. A distant yelling like that of men below decks in a torpedoed prison ship. The scarlet whoosh of Molotovs intersecting with exacting surfaces. Helicopters everywhere: their spotlights finding one another like lovers in the Afterlife.
And all this through a lens of oleaginous Belfast rain.”
When two gay men are murdered northern Ireland appears to have its first proper serial killer. His boss may or may not be right when he says he doesn't believe that it may not be a serial killer.
One of the things that this book really shows is that the milkman came, the post office still ran, people went to barbers, kids went to school, people drank at pubs and they went to the movie theater. (literally the protagonist ponders going to see Raiders of the Lost Ark) people try to live their life like everything is normal.
Then something like this happens, a bomb goes off at a restaurant that a major character had eaten at and you realize that, nothing about this is normal, unemployment is through the roof. The protagonist doesn't just carry his revolver but he has a sterling submachine gun on his kitchen table for a large chunk of the novel, bombs go off frequently, people get murdered in the streets by paramilitaries. That despite everything that people are doing, nothing about this situation is normal. One thing that some people in the book are thinking is who cares about this case, homosexuality is illegal, the response of the RUC is this
Keeping pigeons without a licence is illegal as well, but we can’t have people going round shooting pigeon-keepers, can we? It is the job of the RUC to enforce the law in Northern Ireland, not paramilitary groups, not vigilantes, not ‘concerned citizens’, it’s our responsibility and ours alone,”
What you get is a sense of despair from the novel unemployment was sky high, the only reason it wasn't higher was because people left for either the U.S or Australia. Bombs go off daily. You get the sense that people are tired of violence but on some level it won't stop.
I loved this book and if you like noir or murder mysteries, or just history, you should check it out.