Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy is the only catholic policeman in Belfast in 1981. His first case: a man is found dead in a car, his hand is missing, the one they found in his car does not belong to him. A couple of days later, another man is found dead in his house. What both victims have in common? They are gay, in times when homosexuality does not exist and a serial killer seems to track them down. Another murder case comes in at the same time: a young woman apparently committed suicide in the woods after an extramarital pregnancy, but further investigation reveals that her death might not have been caused by herself. Both cases do not have much in common, but soon Sean Duffy can see a connection and becomes the target himself.
I first happened to read the fourth book in the series and was curious to find out how the Sean Duffy cases started. I was not disappointed at all, actually I think that the first of the novels was a lot more interesting than the one I read before. The murder case is quite interesting, it takes some time until slowly the connections are revealed and in the end, we do have a very clever set up with a lot of unexpected entanglements.
Yet, what I liked most is the atmosphere in the thriller. We are in Belfast at one of the most critical moments in the younger history. The struggles can be felt throughout the novel and Adrian McKinty really manages to integrate his story in the historic context. The Northern Ireland conflict is not just a pretext, it is real in the novel and you can see how hard police work was at that time, how the life even of ordinary people is determined by the opposing warmongers. The novel could not easily be transferred to another town; it only works in Belfast 1981 which is definitely a plus.