Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly

Adrian McKinty continues his series featuring Irish detective Sean Duffy with his latest novel, POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON’T LOOK FRIENDLY. Like previous series titles, this one takes place in the mid-1980s, when Ireland was in the midst of “The Troubles” – that is, the ongoing and often violent tension between Catholics and Protestants.

The setting is Belfast, 1988. A man is found dead, killed by a bolt from a crossbow in front of his house. Detective Sean Duffy of the Carrick Police Force is called away from his holiday and assigned the case. Duffy immediately recognizes the dead man as a known drug dealer.

Duffy’s superiors on the Force see no reason to spend much time on the death of “just another drug dealer,” but still the case bothers Duffy. For one, it is the second reported killing by a crossbow; second, no one seems to know anyone who wanted the drug dealer dead.

Duffy and his trusted officers dig deeper and eventually uncover a hidden secret of the Police Forces’ past – a secret several would like kept that way, even if it means permanently silencing Sean Duffy.

McKinty continues to incorporate the tensions that gripped his native Ireland during the time of the narrative, along with a police procedural investigation of a murder. So Duffy and his team must deal with the paramilitary groups that often rule the streets while trying to find clues to the murder.

Duffy’s first-person narration drives the story, and he continues to be a complex and fascinating character. His past record of insubordination is the reason why he is constantly passed over for promotion, while other, less experienced officers, climb the ranks of the Police Force and end up Duffy’s superiors. Duffy also maintains past friendships with those now on the opposite side of The Troubles and is not above consulting them for information that helps his investigation.

But Duffy has problems in his personal life as well. His live-in girlfriend, the mother of his infant daughter, is weary of the daily strife of Belfast and urges Duffy to move away from their home. The fact that his girlfriend is a Protestant is a huge hurdle to Duffy’s Catholic family. And the things that help Duffy make his way through his daily challenges – booze and the occasional reefer – are coming back to haunt him, as a recent mandated health inspection reveals.

Yet Duffy doggedly pursues his case, and McKinty’s laconic prose style keeps us involved with both the personal and professional obstacles that stand in Duffy’ way.

There are moments, however, when the personal asides seem to distract from the murder investigation and drag down the narrative pace. But Duffy’s caustic observations maintain our interest as he eventually makes his way past his off-hour difficulties and uncovers the hidden secret behind the murder.

McKinty embellishes the story with various settings throughout Belfast and other locations. The scenery may change but the rainfall and damp mist of Belfast follows Duffy as he navigates the highways that connect these destinations.

Although this is the 8th title in the series, each novel stands completely on its own. So those who missed the earlier titles can easily introduce themselves to Sean Duffy with this latest novel.

McKinty continues to be one of the most compelling of contemporary Irish crime novelists working today. And POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON’T LOOK FRIENDLY is another noteworthy addition to this unique and continually intriguing series. —Alan Cranis

Get it at Amazon.

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