The Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty

‘The Cold Cold Ground’ is the first novel I’ve read by Adrian McKinty and is the first in a series featuring Detective Sean Duffy.

Duffy is a Catholic cop in a mostly Protestant police force in Carrickfergus on the outskirts of Belfast. The story is set in 1981 during the troubles. Margaret Thatcher is in power and there are hunger strikes at the Maze as political prisoners demand their rights. Police are killed patrolling the riots and at any time this could be Duffy or one of his colleagues. It is standard practice for police to check under their cars each morning for mercury tilt bombs, particularly for a man like Duffy – a Catholic living in a Protestant street.

Duffy and his team are investigating the murders of two homosexuals. It looks like a serial killing which is quite a novelty in Northern Ireland as anyone wanting to kill people could simply join a paramilitary group. The investigation is a difficult one. Homosexuality was still illegal in Northern Ireland in 1981 and none of the main paramilitary groups had any tolerance for homosexuals. Duffy faces the problem of many thinking that the murders are justified as well as the difficulties of travelling into no-go zones to carry out the investigation.

But, the pathologist finds some interesting clues and Duffy starts putting together the pieces of the puzzle. He also forms a relationship with the pathologist, Laura.

The Duffy is assigned another case, the investigation of the suicide of the ex-wife of one of the hunger strikers. Duffy is sure that there is a link to the homosexual murders but this is base purely on hunches.

Against orders and common sense he follows his hunches to finally uncover an incredibly cold blooded killer.


The picture that this novel painted of Northern Ireland in the 1980s was incredible – the tensions, attitudes, clothes and music were perfect for bringing this story to life. Adrian McKinty was able to draw on his experience of having lived there.

Sean Duffy was an excellent character. He was very flawed by refused to be part of the Catholic Protestant conflict. I didn’t like some of what he did but enjoyed him as a character.

I’m looking forward to reading the next novel in the series – ‘I Hear Sirens in the Street’.


Book Published 2012


See a full list of books by Adrian McKinty


Filed under Book Reviews, Crime, Detective, McKinty, Adrian, Series Fiction, Thriller

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