Gun Street GirlBelfast, 1985, the height of The Troubles: amid the gunrunners, riots, and the Ango-Irish Agreement, there is no such thing as a routine murder investigation. Northern Ireland is a powder-keg just waiting to explode, and every case has the potential to further ignite the situation. The murder of a wealthy couple, followed soon after by the apparent suicide of their son, who takes responsibility for their deaths, doesn’t appear to be fuel for the fire: it seems open and shut, ready to be filed and forgotten. Until the body count continues to rise, and the political implications become clear.

Given his roguish brand of policing – alongside questionable lifestyle choices, including a coke habit and the requisite heavy-drinking – Detective Inspector Sean Duffy might not seem the obvious candidate to investigate such a sensitive case. But it’s precisely this renegade streak that makes him such an effective sleuth. With an aura of fearlessness and an underlying arrogance, Duffy delves into the murky, dangerous world of a covert US intelligence force, making plenty of enemies along the way.

New readers will miss some of the more nuanced moments, and references to former characters, but Adrian McKinty’s fourth Sean Duffy novel reads perfectly as a standalone. GUN STREET GIRL segues into a potential career move for Duffy, and dips into his social life (or lack of), but the investigation remains its focus, moving along at rapid pace. The climactic shoot-out is a tad humdrum – a finale with less noise might’ve had more punch – but the novel’s final twist erases any misgivings about that.

Deftly plotted, and punctuated with dark humour, GUN STREET GIRL is a fine thriller, demonstrating how one of the most persistent cops in the business will do whatever it takes to crack a case.

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