Next up for review is Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty, nominated for an Edgar Award by Mystery Writers of America in the Best Original Paperback category. The fifth offering in his Sean Duffy series, McKinty hooks the reader immediately in the opening scene: Duffy works crowd control upon the arrival of Muhammad Ali in Belfast in 1987. (This scene is loosely based on an actual trip Ali made to County Clare in 2005 to visit the home of his great-grandfather, Abe Grady.) Duffy arrives home to find his girlfriend Beth has packed her bags. She KO’s him with the announcement she’s moving out, that they are over, it was fun, but well, there’s ten years difference in their ages and can’t they still be friends? She leaves the next day.

When Duffy investigates a report that a tourist from a Finnish delegation has had his wallet stolen, he meets Lily Bigelow, a reporter staying in the same hotel as the Finns. She’s hovering in the hallway hoping for a story. Duffy senses a possible date with Lily and they exchange information. But Lily turns up dead the next day after following the Finnish group on a tour of Carrickfergus Castle. Lily’s death is ruled a suicide. Clarke Underhill, the castle caretaker, presents Duffy with a locked room puzzle: the castle has only one entrance/exit, Underhill inspected the castle top to bottom at close of business making sure it was empty, inspected it again prior to opening in the morning, so no one could’ve hidden inside (and no, there are no tunnels, secret rooms, or places to hide). Yet Lily is found dead within, seemingly after jumping from a castle wall.

Duffy, ably assisted by Detective constables “Crabbie” McCrabban and Alex Lawson, sets out to solve the second locked room murder in his career (highly statistically improbable). The story takes place during the Troubles, and sure enough, pipe bombs under policemen’s cars are part of the sad setting, as well as low employment, and lots and lots of rain. But Duffy is an immensely likeable character because even though he’s been jilted, has a puzzle impossible to solve, drinks and smokes legal and illegal substances overly much, he is funny. He sees the absurdities in his own life and others. He’s sensitive. He adopts Lily’s cat. He’s approaching 40 with an eye to his single status.

McKinty is a wonderful writer, succinct in his descriptions, a deft hand in pacing, and both subtle and silly in his humor. One minor drawback is a myriad of references to people and places obviously well-known to Irish readers but often mystifying to us on this side of the pond. But ’tis a quibble. The locked room puzzle has a satisfying solve and we bid farewell to Duffy in a nicely-set-up ending that leaves us hankering for number six in the series, which I hear has just been published.

On a scale of one to ten, I rate this an eight.