Rain Dogs | Adrian McKinty

RAIN DOGS is Adrian McKinty’s fifth detective crime fiction in the Sean Duffy series. McKinty is an Irish author who worked his way through New York and now lives in Melbourne, Australia. He has won the Ned Kelly Award and been shortlisted for the Edgar Award, Dagger Award and the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. This is his (I hope I counted this right) 17th book with all of them being much loved. If you love your European crime shows (and books) or love a brilliant detective series then get your gogglers into the Sean Duffy series, Kernel Morgan started with this, the fifth, in the series and will now be looking at reading the previous instalments. RAIN DOGS is out now from our friends at Allen and Unwin Book Publishers, you can find this one in most bookstores or you can obtain it HERE. Now enjoy Morgan’s thoughts……..all the best………..JK.


Rain Dogs UK Book Cover image



I did not know a lot RAIN DOGS going in, other than the promotional blurb saying it is a ‘locked-room’ mystery with a dead body found in the snowy courtyard of a castle. A couple of chapters in and I was completely hooked by the voice of the central character, Sean Duffy, and his principled and sarcastic narrative.

If Duffy’s voice was the ‘hook’, the ‘line’ was the authenticity of the setting – 1980s Belfast, Northern Ireland, during hard economic times, incessant rain, and the ambient unease of the domestic terrorism of the IRA. McKinty uses real people and events, woven into the fictitious investigation, explaining in the Afterword which elements were true and where all the inspiration came from.

And the ‘sinker’, the thing that sank me deepest into this police procedural, was the clipped sentence structure, where rapid fire sentence-fragments are used both to propel the pace, and to typify the character of Duffy, a no-frills persistent detective with no time for long-winded verbosity.

RAIN DOGS is told in first-person past-tense with Sean Duffy as our narrator. This is the fifth of McKinty’s novels to feature Sean Duffy as the central character. He is on a winner with the voice of this character, it has a moreish quality to it. Duffy is simple, trustworthy and diligent, but not without his own deeply cynical inner monologue. He often thinks one thing and says another, his professionalism and sense of duty winning out over personal irritations. He is pretty good at reading people, has a background in psychology, and uses relationships to his advantage. He is a local Catholic in a police force full of Protestants.


Adrian McKinty author image


I loved the structure of RAIN DOGS. McKinty gives us 32 chapters all with descriptive chapter titles, such as [6. The One Shoe], [17. Ed McBain’s Notebook], [20. On The Ice], [23. The Famous Carrickfergus Fifteen-Pub Crawl], and [29. Kami No Itte – The Divine Move]. The chapter titles made it a more enjoyable read, they are like clues in themselves, only fully making sense once you have completed the chapter. Then you, as a reader, feel like you are part of a private joke. It builds camaraderie with the Sean Duffy character. You become an insider into how he thinks, how his brain partitions information.

We get a small amount of information about Duffy’s love life in the first chapter, and after the results of the case we get another chapter updating us on his love interest, Beth. This is somewhat character-building, but it was all fairly generic. It served more as scene-setting for the cultural attitudes of the period in which the murder case take place, and creates a longer story arc for Duffy to sustain readers over the series. We are also familiarised with Duffy’s alcoholism, cannabis use, and desire to quit cigarettes, along with plenty of commentary on his personal tastes in music (not a U2 fan).


Rain Dogs Book Cover image


The police investigation into the apparent suicide of Lily Bigelow, a journalist with a secret, make up the vast majority of this novel. A side-effect of this is a high level of acronym usage – DI, DC, FO, RUC, WPC, PC, ME, DCI, CID, DS, DPP – which is typical of this genre, and fairly easy to figure out or google. Some of the names of the side-characters were a bit too similar sounding: McBain, McCrabban, McArthur, McIlroy, and Mulvenny, going to the McCracken pub and using Macintosh computers. There is a bit of language specific to castle (portcullis, keep) and a few local dialect terms (lough, sheugh) and slang (fenian), which – if you are like me and enjoy expanding your vocabulary – are more of a garnish than a barrier. (ED’s NOTE: Fenian: a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a 19th-century revolutionary nationalist organization among the Irish in the US and Ireland. The Fenians staged an unsuccessful revolt in Ireland in 1867 and were responsible for isolated revolutionary acts against the British until the early 20th century, when they were gradually eclipsed by the IRA.)

For Australian readers the concept of ‘rain dogs’ is something quite foreign, pertaining to a phenomenon in the northern hemisphere, where roaming dogs – who find their way to and from places by following their own scent – can be found looking lost, sheltering in doorways and under shop-front awnings after heavy downpours of rain, when their scent has been washed away. The novel starts with a quote of lyrics from the Tom Waits song ‘Rain Dogs’ and references the idea of never being able to go back home. This is relevant to development in Duffy’s personal life, but also speaks to the changing landscape of Northern Ireland, where the simplicity of local towns and farmlands are giving way to big business, technological advances, and the corruption of power and discord.

RAIN DOGS is more than just a crime novel, it is a slice of life of a place and time where being a police officer was the highest mortality profession in the world. The story is equal parts historical fiction, political intrigue, and bread-and-butter forensics-autopsy-interrogation style crime drama. You will not want to put it down until you reach the end.


4 and a Half Pops


Kernel Morgan is an author of short fiction, an anthology editor, and a technical writer. Her books include SNIGGERLESS BOUNDULATIONS and SPROUTLINGS. She enjoys scowling at children and bursting bubbles. She can be tweeted at @queenboxi

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor/publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.


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