Since January the Fiction of the Hypothetical Book Championship Belt Holder has been John Green's fantastic The Fault in Our Stars, this is a great book about celebrating life in the face of death. There have been no serious challengers to this novel as this has been a year in which I have not read a lot of fiction. Until the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend that is when I was able to finally finish Adrian McKinty's indelible Troubles Trilogy. These novels, set amidst Ireland's 1980's are stunning, literate takes on the Detective genre. They feature a wisecracking and way too smart for his own good man who just happens to be a Catholic on a mostly protestant police force. Detective Sean Duffy is an intelligent, University graduate who has joined the force to make a genuine difference in a world torn apart by Civil war and reprehensible terrorist acts.
Each of the three novels is a window into the soul of a terrifying time of uncertainty through a prism of a brutal crime. The first The Cold Cold Ground features the murder of a homosexual man who also happens to be one of the top men in the IRA - and a victim who may be the target of a serial killer. The second I Hear the Sirens in the Street is about an abdomen found inside a suitcase that links to American intelligence forces and a recently widowed woman. In the shattering conclusion In the Morning I'll be Gone Duffy must utilize all his skills as a detective to solve a locked door mystery in order to gain access to an escaped IRA master bomber - who just happens to be his former high school buddy.
The books are tinged with the darkness of the times, and link to key moments in British history under the iron reign of Margaret Thatcher (the miners strike, Falklands War, her re-election). They are brilliant and powerful stories full of regret and sadness and like Duffy are a reflection of the modern times and commentary on the cyclical nature of history and time.
Needless to say these are books one devours, and then, reflects upon afterwards. They are the rare page turner that is actually saying more than simply what is on the page, and we feel every single ounce of Duffy's terror, regret, love and pain. These are more than crime novels, they are an accurate portrait of a place and time of absolute chaos, where no one was safe and the line between right and wrong was haphazardly drawn. Duffy is Bernie Gunther in Ireland - and for me that is the highest possible compliment I can give a crime novel.
The trilogy is well worth the time and well deserving of the Hypothetical Book Championship Belt for 2014.