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This is second book in the Sean Duffy detective trilogy set in "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland in the early 1980s. This is gritty stuff in an authentic setting full of danger from all parties, the IRA, the Protestants and even the police and MI5.
After his successes in #1 in the trilogy, Sean Duffy has been promoted to Detective Inspector in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. While Duffy's job as a detective is to investigate crime there are rarely any normal criminals in Northern Ireland at that time who don't have some kind of connection to "The Troubles".
When Duffy checks out a bloody trail in an abandoned factory that leads to a rubbish skip he is stunned to find a suitcase oozing blood and inside a man's headless naked torso cut off at the knees and shoulders. He is even more stunned when the pathologist tells him that the man had been poisoned, dissected and frozen for some time.
Where do you start with such a case? Duffy is a very methodical detective and has a major clue, a tattoo on the dead man's back "No sacrifice is too great" which Duffy quickly tracks down as being part of the motto of the US Army's First Infantry Division. This starts a hunt for the disappearance of a fairly recent US visitor to Northern Ireland. Although not many people consider Northern Ireland as a tourist destination at that time there are still hundreds of visits to check out and Duffy and his other detectives don't get much help from the Americans. As the investigation proceeds the inevitable links to the parties to the Troubles come up, including another murder of a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment.
While this is a great crime thriller it is the authentic setting and the character of Sean Duffy, a Catholic in a predominantly Protestant police force living a life in what is virtually a war zone, which are my main attraction to the series. His work is dangerous - machine gunned and petrol bombed during riot patrol in an armoured Land Rover - and even at home he is visited at 2am by his Catholic neighbours wearing balaclavas. His girl friend has left him to work as a pathologist for a safer climes in Scotland and for a while he takes solace in his speciality cocktail - a pint of vodka gimlet, half vodka, half lime juice.
Sean Duffy is a compelling detective because he is prepared to go "off-road" to solve cases when he gets nowhere with conventional methods. In the first book in the series THE COLD COLD GROUND he gets a Queen's Medal and promotion for his efforts. This case is more complex and dangerous and may not get the same commendation. I highly recommend this series for readers wanting something different in crime/detective stories and I look forward to reading the last book in the trilogy IN THE MORNING I'LL BE GONE.