Wednesday, February 12, 2014

In the Morning I'll Be Gone, by Adrian McKinty

Yes, but will he? And what will be the manner of his going? That's the question hovering over this third entry in the Sean Duffy "Troubles Trilogy". It's not like he has much going for him as the book opens, and there's yet another trap door lying in wait for him before we're too many pages in. Somehow the Catholic Duffy has not managed to make too many friends in the Protestant police force of Northern Ireland. Although the ladies seem like him.

Whatever may happen to Duffy in the course of this book, and I'm not telling, there's a general atmosphere of exile and leavetaking permeating it. It begins at the tail end of 1983, and there's a sense that anyone with any possibility of doing so is getting out. There's America, of course, but why not just take the little hop to Scotland or England? Sean's old girlfriend has, and one of his fellow officers is hoping to. And even in the course of his investigations, Duffy will go back and forth a few times. So why shouldn't he make the move more permanent?

Luckily for Duffy, the powers that be scoop him up again to put him to use. Luckily, I say, because it becomes clear in the course of this book that Duffy, unoccupied, is at pretty loose ends. So it's a good thing his old school chum Dermot McCann has escaped from the Maze Prison and has cooked up some dastardly plan that somehow Duffy is supposed to stop. In his wanderings, Duffy introduces us to several circles of Northern Irish hell that have somehow escaped us previously, and has the chance to solve a locked room mystery which I hovered near the solution to but never quite reached, or reached just about when I was supposed to.

A pleasure in all of McKinty's books is the quality of the writing, and I was struck in reading this one at what a wide frame of reference he has to draw from. There aren't many mysteries where you'll get a joke featuring Dia de los Muertos, a quote from Ezra Pound, a nod to Mahler in one corner and The Velvet Underground in another. And if you don't get half of the allusions it will be all right (trust me), because the story isn't dependent on your understanding them. These are just the added features. Call them a bonus.

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