Books: The Maze prison break thriller and a strange coincidence . . .
Fiction: In the Morning I'll be Gone Adrian McKinty (Serpent's Tail, £12.99, pbk, 256 pages)
It is perhaps coincidental, but fortuitous for both, that Adrian McKinty should have anchored his latest Sean Duffy thriller to the search for a senior IRA man who led a mass escape from the Maze prison, just when Gerry Kelly, who masterminded that escape, should have published his own memoir of the event. Apart from that, of course, there is no connection between the two characters.
Duffy, the hero of two previous episodes, had been reduced in rank and returned to patrol duty as a uniformed constable. He is further disgraced when a false charge of dangerous driving results in his dismissal from the RUC, of which, at the time, he is one of a small minority of Catholic officers.
Eager to snatch at any straw, he responds when MI5 come looking for him in the person of an enigmatic female spook of uncertain age and doubtful sexuality, called Kate. The offer is for him to be reinstated in the RUC in his own rank of detective inspector in return for his running to earth the escaped ringleader.
The ringleader happens to have been an old classmate at a Catholic grammar school in Derry – always top of the class and always one better than Duffy – who had gone for advanced training in bomb-making and terrorist tactics in Libya and is now thought to have gone underground in Europe in preparation for an IRA spectacular which would be a game-changer in the conflict.
His search involves Duffy in accepting a freelance commission to reinvestigate the death of a young woman a few years before, which had been treated as accidental, despite the reservations of a pathologist and the girl's mother. This was the classic murder in a locked room scenario, which Duffy eventually solves, leaving the culprit to extra-judicial execution and leading him to his terrorist quarry. All roads converge on the Grand Hotel in Brighton on the eve of the Tory Party conference for the final bloody denouement.
Restored to rank and suitably decorated, Duffy survives for yet another adventure.
This is an older, more sobered Duffy, still unconventional and willing to take chances, but more reflective, more Sherlock Holmes and Edgar Allen Poe than Rambo and Robocop. His failing powers (or his growing maturity) result in fewer bedroom scenes, and less activity when he gets there – but there is plenty of excitement and suspense elsewhere in this gripping yarn.
Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie or by calling 091 709350