In 1981 Belfast, Sean Duffy is a rare endangered creature– a Catholic cop in Northern Ireland. He begins the novel mostly honest and motivated by a desire to battle the violence tearing his community apart.
When I started The Cold Cold Ground, I wasn’t sure how I felt about a cop protagonist. I prefer PI or criminal narrators in my noir. However, Sean Duffy’s environment makes it impossible for him to do his job clean. This fundamental conflict generates steadily increasing tension as Duffy attempts to investigate what appears to be the first serial killer in Northern Ireland.
Ultimately, Duffy represents the failure of idealism. By the end of the novel, he will have to leave Ireland to find out “the truth.” His fallen return to a fallen place sets up the second book where the concept of “absolution” promises to become a horrific attack on ethics and morality.
McKinty drew on his own youth for Cold Cold Ground’s setting and characters. The dabs of history and McKinty’s sense of place enriches the story without overwhelming it. Despite its juxtaposition with the early eighties hunger strikes (If you’re not familiar, check out this film.), Cold never comes across as a “statement” novel because McKinty effectively internalizes the external conflict within Duffy’s character.
I’m looking forward to the next Duffy thriller.