Written by Adrian McKinty — Catholic cop Sean Duffy has done a lot since joining the predominantly Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary. He’s shaken down Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries, seduced several ladies, embarrassed the FBI, solved the case of a torso in a suitcase, and gone directly against his chief constable’s orders. Oh, and he’s had more than enough to drink, and put away some mean Ulster fry-ups too.
Due to his insubordination, the early pages of In the Morning I’ll be Gone see Duffy getting kicked out of the constabulary, landing on his backside with a resounding thud. What’s an obsessive seeker of justice to do if he can’t work for the police? Duffy’s at his wits’ end. Luckily for him, though, it’s 1983 and just like in real life Republican prisoners stage a major break-out at HM Maze Prison in County Down. Half of them are recaptured, but the notorious bomb-maker Dermot McCann gets away. Once a schoolfriend of Duffy, McCann ends up in Libya receiving terrorist training from Gaddafi’s finest.
Soon, Duffy is recruited by two MI5 agents, Tom and Kate – your typical spooks. Ever the cynic, he can’t help being rude to them whilst at the same time begging for his old job back in return for tracking down McCann. They have him just where they want him, and before long he’s cruising the sectarian streets of Ulster knocking on doors – McCann’s mother and sisters won’t talk, so he tries the man’s ex-wife.
Annie McCann comes from the Fitzpatrick clan and with their Republican roots, they’re not going to give him up either. But Annie’s mother Mary has an idea – maybe Duffy can solve the mystery of her daughter Lizzie’s death. Here McKinty effortlessly drops his locked-room mystery into the plotline. A few years prior, Lizzie was found dead in her parent’s pub by Lough Neagh after failing to return home one night. The police, her mother, and boyfriend Harper searched the area but she was found in the pub with the doors bolted from the inside. A pathologist was sure her neck was broken by an attacker, but it could be she fell off the bar while trying to change a lightbulb. If Duffy can give Mary Fitzpatrick her daughter’s killer – if there is one – she might just give up McCann.
Duffy finds himself in a Golden Age-style murder mystery set in 1980s Northern Ireland, and even refers to some of the classic locked-room stories from crime literature as he investigates. He travels to and fro between numerous interrogations, and the last three men to drink in the pub before Lizzie locked up seem more than a little suspicious. Trouble is, the doors were bolted shut and therefore everyone thinks it was an accident.
Needless to say, the spectre of the IRA bomber Dermot McCann hangs over Duffy too. How will he catch this ruthless killer – someone who always bested him when they were youths? It all comes down to a dramatic climax in which McKinty – like James Ellroy, Don DeLillo, Martin Cruz Smith and so many other great authors – weaves elements of real history into a momentous conclusion. Duffy goes from struggling to solve one death in a lonely pub way out in County Antrim to racing against time to prevent assassinations and mass murder on the mainland.
In The Cold Cold Ground and I Hear the Sirens in the Street, McKinty’s writing was smooth, clever, dark and atmospheric, but those seemed much grittier books. Duffy has always been the ultimate cynic, loving only his job and struggling with authority, himself, and the angry world he finds himself in. In this novel, he comes across as softer, a touch more polite, and a lot more reflective. Not only do we get a good dose of his heroic violence during the action, but also an interesting take on The Troubles from a wider historical perspective. In the Morning I’ll be Gone is an absorbing and gripping read, that’ll make you feel like you’re right there as it happens. You don’t need to have read the previous books to enjoy it, either.
Read our interview with the author here.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars