Adrian Magson is the author of 20 crime and spy thrillers, including the Harry Tate series, the Lucas Rocco series and the Marc Portman series. His latest books are ‘The Locker’ (Midnight Ink - Feb 2016) the first in a new thriller series, and ‘Hard Cover’ (Severn House - March 2016), the third of his Marc Portman novels.
This is so good.
It’s 1985 in Northern Ireland, and DI Sean Duffy, appearing in his fourth book, is seen here, the determined, pragmatic but increasingly cynical Catholic cop, living resolutely alongside paramilitaries in Belfast.
Against a backdrop of riots, which are pulling an overstretched, exhausted and besieged RUC personnel into ever-increasing service, Duffy is called by Sgt ‘Crabbie’ McCrabban to a double murder. A husband and wife have been shot dead, but the location proves problematic, in that it sits on a disputed patch between two neighbouring forces.
Duffy is persuaded to take it on, little realising that in a country with an already murderous backdrop, this is nothing like a simple killing. It will lead him onto other killings and an apparent suicide. Throw in the reported theft of half a dozen Javelin missiles from the local Shorts armaments factory; the involvement of a shadowy American waving diplomatic status – a senior US Marine officer deeply embroiled in the White House Contra scandal – a so-called former assassin in the Ulster Freedom Fighters who claims to have found God; Special Branch; MI5 and a cast of other exquisitely-drawn characters who leap right off the page at you, and you have the best of all stories.
Beset on all sides by politics, senior officers, paramilitaries and conflict, and attempts to derail his progress, Duffy has a growing sense that he’s fighting a lone battle he cannot win, a sense that can only be dulled by rare moments of shared comfort, hard booze or the odd snort of high-grade coke. Although not old, there are younger officers coming up around him, yet he pushes doggedly on, in spite of an offer to take a desk job with the Security Service.
There’s a realistic undercurrent of sour humour in this story of a man who has reached a turning point in a troubled land. But more than that, it’s a hugely entertaining and riveting book, with real elements of the times expertly woven into the storyline to give a gritty flavour of life seen through the eyes of an RUC officer.
It’s also the most enjoyable book I’ve read in a long time.
Highly recommended. Buy it or borrow it, put it on your MBR list (must be read).