Review: Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty

Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty is the 5th novel in the Detective Sean Duffy series, nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original.

Carrickfergus Castle is witness to what seems to be the sad suicide of yet another lost soul. No one really knows why someone would take their own life. Death, when visited on others, seems to make everyone else an expert about the surroundings or the circumstances preceding the departed person’s demise—whether at their own hand or that of the cold fingers of fate reaching out for them to say their time has come. 

If the Castle knows the true facts surrounding the death, it is not giving them up to Detective Inspector Sean Duffy, who has left the warmth of his house on Coronation Road in Belfast’s Victoria Estate to tidy up the death scene. Something is not right—apart from the foul weather Northern Ireland serves up in copious amounts—in this top-class thriller. The death has too many strange aspects to it to be a straightforward suicide. 

The main reason Duffy is reluctant to just accept the death as self-inflicted is that the victim’s shoes are on the wrong foot. Who walks up awkward ancient steps in a Castle with their shoes on the wrong feet? While the possibility exists that the victim took their shoes off and put them back on the wrong way just before they jumped off the top of the Castle, the astute Duffy thinks it’s hardly likely.

He will not close the case as a suicide—there are far too many parts that need explaining. His unwillingness to sign off on it does not make him many friends. What is does is take him on a dark and dangerous path that unmasks double-dealings and wrong-doings at the very top tier of privilege and influence in the United Kingdom and further afield. Violence and death lurks around every corner.

The writing is sharp, economical, and poignant. You really get pulled into the dark, dank, cold world of Duffy and the relentless death and tragedy. McKinty expertly crafts his characters in a way that gets you fully involved in their exploits and what happens to them. You know it is a work of fiction, but the actions and consequences seem real, causing you to feel them all in their bitter, caustic reality. You want to reach in and help, hoping to warn someone before they do something that could yield unfortunate results. 

Adrian McKinty takes you to a Belfast and Northern Ireland where you actually feel the rain drumming on your forehead as you ponder the fate of the next victim. It doesn’t rain all the time, but it does rain a lot—and weather often creates the texture and soul of a country, its people, and, indeed, their deeds. The book really does take you to some unexpected places with verve and tenacity, touching on a myriad of complicated issues and dark, hidden truths. It is a very clever crime thriller, the borders of which are not solely kept to Northern Ireland.

Two Ylikomisario (senior commissars) from the Central Criminal Police met Lawson and me at the airport. Crabbie was needed back at the fort to run the CID and check in on my car, but to be honest I would have preferred him here rather than Lawson, who had listened to horrible music on his Walkman the whole way from Belfast to Heathrow and Heathrow to Helsinki. Horrible music from bands I’d never heard of. When I’d protested he’d skewered me with, “Come on, sir, you don’t want to be one of those guys yelling ‘Judas’ at Bob Dylan because he plugs in an amp.”

Duffy is relentless. Through all the twists and turns, he keeps at it until he unmasks the truth, making it clear that his instinct with the unfortunate victim at Carrickfergus Castle was spot on.

Adrian McKinty has won a few awards for his writing, and Rain Dogs—which is nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original—has as a great chance to gain to some well-deserved accolades for a superb thriller.


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Dirk Robertson is a Scots thriller writer, currently in Virginia where he is promoting literacy and art projects for young gang members. When not writing, tweeting, or blogging on the Mystery Writers of America website, he designs and knits clothes and handbags from recycled rubbish.

Read all Dirk Robertson’s posts for Criminal Element.


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