A drian McKinty’s latest, Rain Dogs, is a strong continuation of his Sean Duffy series. As Rain Dogs opens, Muhammad Ali makes a peace visit to Northern Ireland, and Duffy gets assigned to Ali’s security detail. Those readers not used to seeing Sean Duffy in any state other than abject misery will enjoy this brief respite. Ali’s visit to Northern Ireland heralds Rain Dogs complex context – paramilitaries, civil rights activists, spies, and economists all compete to transform Northern Ireland, blasted by the mid-eighties into a blank palate on which to play international games and stage social and economic experiments.
While Duffy enjoys his escort duties to the max, even securing a framed photograph of his place next to the great boxer in Ali’s security entourage, his next assignment is less fun. Duffy gets called to a hotel room to find the missing wallet of a Finnish diplomat evaluating Northern Ireland’s potential for electronics manufacturing. While Duffy quickly settles on the delegation’s clearly connected interns as the merry pranksters who’ve stolen the wallet, he suspects the delegates of a more sinister agenda to their visit.
Duffy’s next assignment is even less pleasant, as he takes on a locked room case involving a suspicious suicide. A newspaper reporter covering the Finnish economic delegation is found dead in a castle just as fortified as when it was built. Duffy and his colleagues have no clue how a perpetrator would have escaped the castle, yet several details surrounding the death don’t quite match a suicide. Duffy must figure out if the woman’s death was her own doing, or really murder. Meanwhile, suspicious that the delegation may have a secret agenda to their visit, he explores the diplomats’ potential connections to some shady after-hours activities operating out of “model” reform school.
McKinty is expert at placing the small crimes, those that a policeman is allowed to solve, in the context of the larger crimes, those that boggle the mind and bring down the powers-that-be to protect the criminal from punishment. In Rain Dogs, McKinty brings together all the disparate threads of Irish identity, past and present. The end of the troubles intersects with the opening salvo of Ireland’s economic resurgence; citizens are as vulnerable to exploitation by the government as to exploitation by paramilities; creative public policy is as limited by violence as by religion; aspects of society roil and rub up against each other, fighting for predominance and control.
McKinty has created a sweeping portrait of Northern Ireland’s economic, political, and ethical concerns through the cynical and clear-eyed perspective of Sean Duffy, all while keeping the action going and the tension high. Also, Duffy gets a cat! Squeeee!!!
You can find copies of Rain Dogs on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.