This will be a hard review to write, if only because I don’t want to come across as a fan boy. Adrian McKinty’s In the Morning I’ll Be Gone is that good.
I waxed rhapsodic about the first of the Troubles Trilogy (The Cold Cold Ground) and raved about its successor (I Hear the Sirens in the Street). In the Morning I’ll Be Gone not only builds on its predecessors, it improves on elements previously introduced.
September 1983. Sean Duffy has been banished from the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) after the blowback from the case solved in Sirens. We see what life is like for a street peeler in Troubles Northern Ireland until Duffy meets—well, I’m not one to give away even intermediate plot twists. Let’s just say McKinty uses the early parts of the book to get the plot engine running while showing in stark terms what life is like on the “front lines” of what had become a guerrilla war. Duffy’s unit patrols along the border, where snipers in the Republic can take pot shots with little fear of pursuit.
Everything that distinguishes the earlier books is here, ratcheted up a notch. McKinty’s greatest skill may be his ability to make so many diverse elements serve the story. Some authors write thrillers; some character studies. Others prefer puzzle mysteries in the English tradition. There are authors who like to make setting a “character.” In the Morning I’ll Be Gone places a locked room puzzle mystery in the context of a thriller that could not have taken place anywhere but Northern Ireland during The Troubles. There are no stereotypical characters, and Duffy is as cynical a hero as you’ll to find. He does what he does for his own reasons, yet is not an antihero; his priorities are not always in synch with his superiors’. Throw in the Ellroy-esque elements of weaving historical figures and events into the story seamlessly and inextricably and a dash of political commentary that makes sense in a Realpolitik way in the light of future—to Duffy—events, and you’ve hit some of the elements that make In the Morning I’ll Be Gone an extraordinary book.
That’s right: some. As if all of the above weren’t enough, the writing is fluid, the reading effortless. An Irish accent will come to mind when reading the dialog. Never showy, McKinty always knows the right word to keep the reader embraced in his vivid and continuous dream. There are no loose threads in the tapestry of the writing. A lesson in Irish history is not the least of the takeaways, though one never feels lectured. Even the solution to the locked room element is prepared in advance to create an aura of surprise and inevitability.
Each book of the trilogy works well as a standalone, though I strongly recommend reading them in order. Each sets the stage for its successor to build upon, which makes the payoff of In the Morning I’ll Be Gone that much more rewarding. McKinty has sworn there will be only three books in the Duffy series, though the ending leaves him a trap door to continue. My desire to see him give Duffy at least one more go is tempered by wondering what McKinty will come up with next, as he routinely exceeds my now-excessive expectations.