The Cold Cold Ground: The Troubles, Book One

Written by: Adrian McKinty
Narrated by: Gerard Doyle
Length: 10 hrs and 3 mins
Series: The Troubles, Book 1
Unabridged Audiobook
Release Date:01-11-12
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Spring 1981. Northern Ireland. Belfast on the verge of outright civil war. The Thatcher government has flooded the area with soldiers, but nightly there are riots, bombings, and sectarian attacks.
In the midst of the chaos, Sean Duffy, a young, witty, Catholic detective in the almost entirely Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary, is trying to track down a serial killer who is targeting gay men. As a Catholic policeman, Duffy is suspected by both sides and there are layers of complications. For one thing, homosexuality is illegal in Northern Ireland in 1981. Then he discovers that one of the victims was involved in the IRA, but was last seen discussing business with someone from the Protestant UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force).
Fast-paced, evocative, and brutal, this book is a brilliant depiction of Belfast at the height of the Troubles and a cop caught in the cross fire.
My Review
I wonder how many readers will remember those terrible times, and how many of those would have believed they would ever find themselves reading a novel about them? I sure didn't think I would, but two things drew me to this book, one was the title, "The Cold, Cold Ground", it reminded me of a song, well, two songs in fact, from way back when, one of which I liked. The second draw being Gerard Doyle, the narrator.
Sean Duffy is a little different to his colleagues at the R.U.C., he's a Catholic, he's a university graduate and he has studied psychology, he also drinks a lot. Necking vodka gimlets in pint glasses seem to be his favoured method of relaxation, I can't imagine the effect all that lime cordial had on his stomach, but hey, he's young yet! Despite their differences, he seems to get along well enough with his work colleagues, who respect his leadership, he in turn tolerates a bit of teasing here and there. The same can't be said for relationships outside of work, not only is he a Peeler, he's also seen as a bit of a traitor too, so you see, life ain't easy. Along with the booze, he relaxes by listening to his music, it was good to hear the names of those groups again.
Then come the murders, possibly a serial murderer (apparently a rarity in Ireland) was at large, killing homosexual males. Duffy got the job because he knew all the modern stuff, forensics, psychology and scene of crime protocols. Besides, there wasn't really anyone else available and they didn't want to be seen as needing help. Duffy finds a tenuous connection to another investigation, the apparent suicide of Lucy, ex wife of a hunger striker. As the story progresses he becomes convinced he has the answers, he has nothing but instinct to fuel his convictions, and fuelled they are, to the point of obsession. Duffy seems to realise he's whistling in the wind, but he can't stop himself.

The whole wonderful tale revolves not just around these murders, but the lives of the victims and survivors. This gives us a little insight as to how hard was life for those living in the midst of turmoil, and also of those who were charged with protecting them. Who had ever spared a thought to the physical difficulties of donning full riot gear, or the strain of being ever vigilant for those Mercury tilt bombs placed under cars? Adrian McKinty writes in such a way that the reader can't help but become totally immersed in the harshness of those times. Returning to reality strikes hard when you reach out for your vodka gimlet and your hand returns clutching a stubby of Boags Draught.
The wit of the dialogue is so very sharp, sometimes serving to lighten the darker moments, I thought Chief Inspector Brennan had some wonderful one liners that he'd simply fire off in the course of conversation! If you appreciate superb narrative you won't be disappointed, reading the first chapter will convince you of that. I'm happy to have discovered a new series to follow.
Read by Gerard Doyle, I don't think this pairing of author and narrator could have been bettered. I can imagine him, sitting in a room, giving a reading and holding everyone spellbound with his voice and his storytelling skills. He became Sean Duffy, I could picture him perfectly, so now of course, no other narrator can ever be Sean! He differentiated all the characters clearly, male and female, all portrayed consistently, from beginning to end. If Mr. Doyle has one small failing it's this, I don't think he will ever make it big as an opera singer!
Thanks to Linc Tasmania Internet Library Services for providing the loan of this audiobook. A service for which I and all those in rural and remote areas are grateful.

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