The Cold Cold Ground

By Adrian McKinty,

Book cover of The Cold Cold Ground

Book description

Fast-paced, evocative, and brutal, The Cold Cold Ground is a brilliant depiction of Belfast at the height of the Troubles -- and of a cop treading a thin, thin line.

Northern Ireland, spring 1981. Hunger strikes, riots, power cuts, a homophobic serial killer with a penchant for opera, and a…

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Why read it?

5 authors picked The Cold Cold Ground as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Belfast, 1981. Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy is the lone Catholic in a Protestant police force, investigating a series of seemingly unrelated murders and trying to do his job amid sectarian hatred and violence.

Kudos to McKinty for writing a dazzlingly intricate police procedural that maintains the historical integrity of The Troubles. And more kudos for the wickedly dark comic sensibility of the narrator, Duffy.

He is very smart, very smart-mouthed, and very funny. This was my fourth try this year at finding a well-written and compelling mystery series.

All the others fell short by the second book. The Cold Cold…

McKinty takes you right to the streets of a city in chaos. An excellent, edgy, police procedural with a great sense of place––and McKinty doesn’t spare the language or violence in DS Sean Duffy’s first appearance.

In 1981 Belfast, it seems a serial killer is targeting homosexuals––an anomaly in Ulster during the troubles when most murders are sectarian. Just as Duffy starts to doubt this angle, a young woman, ex-wife of a hunger striker, commits suicide, or was she murdered––and was she connected somehow to the killings?

We’re immediately caught up in Duffy’s dysfunctional world, he’s a Catholic detective in…

This gritty mystery is set in Ireland during ‘the troubles.’

Adrian paints a picture of Northern Ireland in 1981. The IRA, the Ulster Force, riots, murder, mystery, and mayhem. 

During this tumultuous background, the hero, Sergeant Duffy is faced with solving a murder. Is it the IRA or the Ulster Force? Or a murderer who has no connections with either?

I do remember how he started every day. We check our cars before going to work to see if we have enough gas. He checked under his car for a bomb. 

Detective Sean Duffy—a Catholic cop living in a Protestant neighbourhood in Belfast during ‘the Troubles’—has one of the best voices in crime fiction, in my opinion. He’s witty, irreverent, and clever, living in a chaotic world that can be terribly brutal. I’ve devoured this series and every book is as good as the last. If you enjoy a bit of grit, lots of humour, and twisty plots, then McKinty’s series is a must-read.

Set in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, The Cold Cold Ground is my most adventurous pick for this list because its protagonist, Sean Duffy, isn’t exactly gay. Or perhaps he just isn’t out. It’s impossible to tell—most likely because Sean himself doesn’t know. The series plays with Sean’s attraction to men, including his work as a police detective investigating the deaths of murdered gay men, while Sean pursues relationships with women. McKinty manages to turn the violence and despair of that time into gorgeous, gripping prose and powerful stories.

Want books like The Cold Cold Ground?

Our community of 11,000+ authors has personally recommended 100 books like The Cold Cold Ground.

Browse books like The Cold Cold Ground

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in gay men, Northern Ireland, and police?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about gay men, Northern Ireland, and police.

Gay Men Explore 124 books about gay men
Northern Ireland Explore 20 books about Northern Ireland
Police Explore 233 books about police