****Gun Street Girl

Ireland, street scene, Belfast

Belfast street (photo: Recuerdos de Pandora, Creative Commons license)

By Adrian McKinty, narrated by Gerard Doyle Gun Street Girl takes place in Belfast, in the mid-1980s, and The Troubles provide a fine backdrop of tension and mayhem. It’s the fourth (yes!) of a planned trilogy, because McKinty—and his readers—couldn’t quite let Detective Sean Duffy go.

The complex plot grows out of actual events of the era, including missile thefts from aerospace company Short Brothers (a convoluted affair in real life) and the hostile environment created by the Thatcher-FitzGerald Anglo-Irish agreement. In the novel, Duffy is out of step as usual with his confreres in law enforcement, especially for being the rare Catholic in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. When a murder investigation takes Duffy and a new recruit to Oxford, England, they encounter a more generalized anti-Irish prejudice. The British coppers apparently believe the Irishmen will be satisfied to sit in their cozy b&b in Oxford (unless my ears mistook, referred to as “Morse-land,” in a nice homage) and drink whiskey. They are, of course, mistaken.

What has taken them to Oxford is the unraveling of a case that at first appears open-and-shut. A couple is found murdered, and it looks as if their son shot them then committed suicide. Under Duffy’s supervision, Detective Sergeant McCrabban is technically in charge of this investigation and is ready to close the books on it, but something’s not quite right. For one thing, no one really wants Duffy and McCrabban poking around in it.

Meanwhile, Duffy’s future with the R.U.C. faces an almost-certain dead-end, and MI5 agent Kate tries to recruit him for her agency. All things considered, a change of employer is more than a wee bit tempting. She’s the Gun Street girl, and, as Tom Waits would have it, Duffy will “never kiss a Gun Street girl again.”

Doyle has won numerous Earphones Awards from AudioFile, and has a solid history narrating mysteries and thrillers. In this book, he must present various Irish and English accents and does so beautifully. I could listen to the book again just to hear him read it. Detective Duffy’s voice is crucial, since the story is told in first-person narration, and Doyle captures him—and McKinty’s dry, self-deprecating humor—beautifully.

A longer version of this review is available on the Crime Fiction Lover website.

****Dead I Well May Be

Mexico, alley

(photo: Eneas De Troya, Creative Commons license)

By Adrian McKinty, read by Gerard Doyle. You’ll recognize the title of this 2003 crime novel as a line in that quintessential Irish song, “Danny Boy,” but nothing about this book is cliché. Last year I read and enjoyed my first McKinty, In the Cold, Cold Ground, and this one is equally engaging. Both books were the first in a series, and I’ll hope to read the full sets.

Protagonist Michael Forsythe is very much a bad boy who reluctantly leaves Ireland to settle in New York City during the violent, drug-ridden 1980s. There he joins a gang of Irish thugs and makes the unpardonable error of bedding the gang-leader’s girlfriend. But he’s not merely a violent man, he’s an intelligent and erudite charmer, too, with hilarious and spot-on observations about American life and his fellow criminals. To say that things don’t go well for him here in the U.S. of A. is an understatement, but Michael can think rings around his confederates and he skillfully manipulates and dodges the politics of violence between Irish and Dominican gangs. Only once does he let his guard down and travels to a chancy Mexican rendezvous with his pals, and . . .

McKinty establishes a lively pace and an engaging narrator, who kept my sympathies, even when he does one of those things I really wish he hadn’t. Narrator Gerard Doyle is a genius.