Northern Ireland, 1983: the unfortunate home of the Troubles and the fortunate (for us) home of Catholic Detective Inspector Sean Duffy. A man not impartial to a bit of poetry, or some weed from the station’s confiscated wares, he is smart, tough, funny, and sad. His girlfriend is going across the water, like everyone else, and he’s left behind with a body in a suitcase and a murder case that is getting colder by the day. Leads are drying up, no one is talking, and he’s being pulled off the scent by those in power. But Duffy is not known for his lack of drive, and will pursue it until it puts him in danger—which of course it will, as no one wants to read a crime novel where the entire thing gets solved with a couple of calm phone calls and an immediate confession.
Sean Duffy is an excellent protagonist: you stand nervously behind him when he’s fighting for what’s right, and you sigh at him when he strikes out awkwardly with women or friends. He occasionally takes the wrong path to the right answer, and the world he inhabits is drawn with the tension and drawl of the time; don’t be surprised if you’re checking underneath your Mazda 3 for bombs or calling police “peelers” afterwards. It’s the kind of title that’s a bit too long to remember when going to ask for it at your library counter, but if you stare into the distance and remember something about “sirens? A road?” in the title, your friendly neighbourhood book person will figure it out for you. And it’s absolutely worth the effort.
A version of this review originally appeared in Readings Monthly.