Adrian McKinty’s second novel in the Sean Duffy series follows the same formula as it’s predecessor. First, a body is found, rather, in this case just a torso. Second, another murder is revealed, that seems impossibly unrelated but will eventually be intrinsically linked. Third, Duffy reveals that an omniscient federal government is linked to both murders. And finally, an obscure hint that Duffy’s fate is not in his own hands, and that there is a, quote, “long game,” in play. Well, let’s hope that there is indeed one in play because though this story is moderately interesting on its own, it adds little depth to Sean Duffy’s character, and may, in fact, detract from it.
In the first novel, McKinty introduced us to a complex character that had charm, wits and relatability but also vulnerability. Though Duffy’s spirit remains, he’s become a little more shallow, morphing into to yet another womanizing, testosterone-riddled detective with all the right answers. Though I have to keep the 1980’s context in mind, McKinty’s portrayal of women is a little generic. It seems without a stable love interest, every female Duffy comes across is a lonely, horny widow who just happens to impress on Duffy how noble and righteous he is. McKinty describes each new female character as either ‘beautiful’ or ‘strangely beautiful’ or ‘hauntingly beautiful’. It grows a little repetitive. Also, whether it’s a quirk of the blatant sexism of the time or not, Duffy really needs to stop calling every woman he meets, “love.” It’s growing old, real fast.
A couple of the characters seem a little pointless as well. Gloria, de Lorean’s secretary clearly just fulfils a fantasy, whether for McKinty himself, or the targeted readers, who knows? Ambreena’s character is a weird inclusion. When Duffy first notices her, it’s hinted that she would play a bigger role in the story later. However, it seems her addition was only to emphasise the blatant racism of the time, though why McKinty couldn’t have done this without adding a distraction for the reader is anyone’s guess. Simply to show how amazing Sean Duffy is? To highlight his ability to be the white, male saviour? Congratulations, detective, you’re not a racist! The character of Emma is the only female with some depth, though her fate is sealed in her classic femme fatale characterisation.
The story itself is a little lack-lustre, especially following the first. Using the same formula, McKinty makes this addition seem a little bit too predictable, even when coming down to the inclusion of the FBI. The whole, “Yes, Mr Duffy, you’ve solved the case, but there’s more to it, so please behave, or else,” won’t be as creative a third time around.
I may be sounding harsh but after the allusiveness of the first novel, hinting towards a greater scheme afoot, this book seems to be simply filling in (or distracting) before the final reveal in the third book. That being said, Sean Duffy’s third story won the Ned Kelly crime award in 2014, so I’m hoping McKinty regained some of that original spark from the first novel and channelled it into his third.
If not, I probably won’t be continuing my pursuit for Sean Duffy in his next trilogy, or the planned one after that.