Thursday, February 9, 2012


THE COLD COLD GROUND is a brilliant new thriller/police procedural by Adrian McKinty, a multicultural writer of considerable experience and impeccable qualifications.  Although Soho Press inexplicably passed on publishing it here in the United States, you can still buy it at Amazon (as I did), for less than $20 and it is well worth the expense and effort.

Set in Northern Ireland's Carrickfergus during the terrorism (or the Troubles as they are politely and routinely called), The Cold Cold Ground is a detective yarn spun against the backdrop of history.  It is also a period piece bristling with the attitudes and artifacts of that time.  For example, the narrator/detective protagonist describes the lady pathologist as looking like Samantha of Bewitched , certainly a generational reference, but young people will still get the idea.

A lot of the Irish slang was new to me, but the context was such that I had no difficulty in picking it up.  It added rather than subtracted from the reading experience, so much easier than reading Peter Temple's Australian slang in his own equally brilliant but more widely known detective yarn, Truth (the winner of the 2010 Miles Franklin Literary Award for best novel).

The title of The Cold Cold Ground comes not from the Stephen Foster spiritual but from Tom Waits' song, quoted in an epigraph.  A playlist of the music mentioned in the text includes Blondie, Juice Newton, and several others familiar to most Americans.

Secular Americans generally find it hard to relate to Ireland's Protestant/Catholic partisan divide.  Readers of Lawrence Block's popular and savvy Scudder series will be familiar with his Irish gangsters, ex-patriots relocated to New York.  The Cold Cold Ground will show you the other side of the coin in a very real way.

Do a search and you can find several other glowing international reviews of this novel, but my advice is to avoid spoilers and to let the novel surprise you with its delightful twists and turns.  McKinty is a stylist and his protagonist often muses on the ironies and complexities of human existence.  It is both beautiful and astonishingly well grounded in history.

Hard aground to the cold, cold ground.

You can listen to Charlotte Church's lovely "Carrickfergus" at this link.  And the Celtic Woman version is here, link.


  1. Richard

    Many many thanks for the review, mate. I'm glad you at least got the Bewitched ref...poor Elizabeth Montgomery to be almost forgotten nowadays...

    Have you heard Loudon Wainwright's version of Carrickfergus that he recorded for Boardwalk Empire? I think he also does an excellent job.

  2. Happy to help spread the word. Thanks for stopping by.