- The hardest-hitting passages in this novel, set in the violent days of Northern Ireland's hunger strikes in 1981, denounce not the violence but rather the bravado and hypocrisy that attended the Troubles and the culture in which they unfolded. And make no mistake: there are bits in this novel to tick off fierce partisans of any of the conflict's sides.
- The sense of what it might have been like to live in those times is vivid but, more than that, convincing. This goes especially for the book's homely details and the off-hand observations by McKinty's Sean Duffy, a Catholic member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Among other things, McKinty, a longtime friend of Detectives Beyond Borders, would make a hell of a tour guide to Belfast.
- Duffy is an educated man, a Catholic living and working among Protestants beset by more than the usual crime-fiction protagonist's self-doubts but such a vital observer of the human and social landscape that he never becomes a bore.
- Ken Bruen is no longer the master of popular-music references in contemporary crime writing. And McKinty's are a lot funnier.
Aestheticizing violence? Yes, but ...
"But that was a week ago and Frankie Hughes, the second hunger striker to die, had none of Bobby [Sands]'s advantages. No one thought Frankie was Jesus. Frankie enjoyed killing and was very good at it. Frankie shed no tears over dead children. Not even for the cameras.
"And the riots for his death felt somewhat ... orchestrated."