Thursday, April 28, 2016

Heard: "The Cold, Cold Ground" by Adrian McKinty

Heard: The Cold, Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty, 2012, download.

Good narration with many accents to cover from Irish, Irish tinged with South African, English, Hoity-Toity English, and Scottish.

Another novel with fiction as truth. Fiction as a method to expose truth. Set only 35 years ago with so many of the people of the time still alive. McKinty bases the novel off the Troubles from Spring to Fall 1981. The real history is so compelling to me that truth behind the novel is more interesting than the plot and tale. Not that the plot and tale are not well done and compelling.

Detective Inspector Sean Duffy is a Catholic working for the mostly Protestant RUC. Newly based in the small town of Carrickfergus. Carrickfergus is a smaller city, 28,000 people in the whole government district in 1981, and far enough from Belfast to not really be a suburb. Carrickfergus is also safer: not so many murders, arson, bombings, drugs, knee cappings, beatings, etc.

Duffy gets a call about a body in an abandoned car. Duffy starts working the case and trying to identify the man. The man's hand was chopped off and left in the car with the rest of the body. Then, another dead man turns up, also missing a hand. The first man is autopsied and a note is found in his rectum. "That's odd," thinks Duffy.

Things happen as the killer communicates his hatred of homosexuals to the police. Gay sex is still illegal in Ireland and both the Catholic and Protestant sides have people in favor of bashing. Duffy thinks a serial killer may be working. A traditional serial killer makes no sense in Northern Ireland. Any would be serial killer just has to join one of the many paramilitaries and he'll get his fill of kill.

Duffy works the case which then dovetails into a mysterious woman's suicide. The first dead man is high up in the IRA. Very high up. Dead Guy headed the nutting squad which investigated informers and then tortured and killed the most suspicious people.

Anywho. We get our fill of deadly dudes on both sides of the political line. You wonder how people survive the small scale war.

McKinty uses his characters to cover several issues over the previous ten years to the story. The history is fascinating.  So much collusion among groups and police. Each revolutionary group is also a crime organization. Informants working for the paramilitiaties and the police. Informants acting as agents of the police and Home Office. Informants allowed to skate under police protection.I ended up reading several new and old news articles on people and events.

Spoilers Await.
McKinty renames the IRA's nutting squad the FRU - Force Research Unit. The FRU was actually a spy group by the Brits. There is an interesting history. McKinty has his main bad guy be a stand-in for the real life British Agent, Stakeknife. Stakeknife was run and paid by the Brits while running the IRA's real-life nutting squad dedicated to finding informers and traitors.

The real life Stakeknife, Freddie Scappaticci, was revealed in 2003 and in October, 2015 had authorities investigating his actions. Scappaticci was undoubtedly involved in multiple murders of IRA members. How many of those IRA were actually guilty of informing. How many did sociopath Scappaticci kill to hide himself. Were the British Army and government involved in picking out who would die? How many of their real informants were killed to save their 'golden egg'?

A few months ago I read an article in The New Yorker about the murder of Jean McConville.
McConville was a widowed mother of nine children. Her children witnessed her abduction from their home and saw the people involved. McConville was murdered by the IRA with little police investigation.  Her now grown son would occasionally catch a taxi driven by one of the men who took his mother. As related in the article:

One of the men who had abducted Jean now drove a black taxi up and down the Falls Road. Occasionally, Michael hailed a cab and climbed inside only to discover this man behind the wheel. Michael never said anything—he couldn’t. He rode in silence, then handed the man his fare.

There is nothing he can say. Nothing he can do. The son has no recourse in the law. They can still have the son killed any time. Especially since Gerry Adams was supposed to be the IRA military commander at the time. In 2005 Sin Fein claimed the killing was justified as a wartime execution of a spy.

Don't let sway you to the British side of things. I was also just reading about an Army squad that worked in plain clothes and whose former members admit they were a hit squad with shoot on sight targets. It's no secret the British coordinated with Orange paramilitaries as well.

1. This was a well done novel. Plenty of tension. A main character dedicated to his work who makes mistakes.
2. Anachronism. Glocks were not around in 1981. When did faxing become a standard of communication? I don't know.
3. Carrickfergus is only a few miles across the water from Scotland. According to McKinty you can see Scotland across the water. I believe McKinty but the images on Google Maps street view are not sharp enough to make out Scotland.

EDIT DECEMBER 27, 2020: Holy crap. I just listened to the fourth  novel in the and re-read these notes. I looked up Freddie Scappaticci and saw he was convicted of having animal pornography in December, 2018. What's more the Magistrate is quoted as saying in court, "You have not been before the court for 50 years – and that’s good character in my book."

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