Written by Adrian McKinty

Review written by Sara Townsend

Sara-Jayne Townsend is a published crime and horror writer and likes books in which someone dies horribly. She is founder and Chair Person of the T Party Writers’ Group.

Serpent's Tail
RRP: £12.99
Released: 30th January 2014
Trade Pbk

Northern Ireland, 1984.  Sean Duffy is a good Catholic boy who in the opinion of many has defected to the other side by joining the British police force.  One man holding this opinion is Dermot McCann who grew up with Sean.  McCann is now a key man in the IRA.

Having been demoted from Detective Inspector for an earlier incident that he still feels he was unfairly punished for, Duffy is not in a good place when he is presented with an opportunity to have his promotion re-instated.  The condition is that he bring in Dermot McCann, who has disappeared after escaping from prison.

Duffy begins his search by going to see Mary Fitzpatrick, whose daughter Annie used tobe married to Dermot McCann.  Mary tells Duffy that she will be able to help him locate McCann on the condition that he solves the murder of her youngest daughter Lizzie.  Lizzie was found dead a few years before on the floor of the family’s pub, allegedly having fallen off the bar whilst changing a light bulb.  The death was deemed an accident, but Mary has never been convinced, and neither was the doctor who examined Lizzie, who claimed she died from a blow to the head from a blunt heavy instrument.

And so Duffy investigates this cold case and is presented with a classic locked room mystery.  Lizzie was found in an otherwise empty room where all the doors and windows were locked and barred from the inside.  And it is here where this book gets interesting.  The more Duffy investigates, the more convinced he becomes that Lizzie’s death was murder and not an accident.  But how did the killer get in and out without a trace?

This novel is two stories in one – the ‘locked room mystery’ surrounding Lizzie’s death, and the wider thriller plot about the hunt for Dermot McCann, and his connection to the IRA plot to kill Margaret Thatcher at the Conservative Party conference in Brighton in 1984.  Both are interesting in themselves, and the latter story of particular interest to anyone who was in the UK in the 1980s and remembers the politics of the time.

This is the third story in the Sean Duffy series, but you don’t have to have read the previous two to pick up this story.  This is an intriguing and well-plotted book that will appeal to anyone who likes locked-room mysteries as well as fans of political thrillers.

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