In 1950's Boston, the Irish Republican Army is running guns and killing witnesses. Cal and Dante are committed to stopping them.
When a body is discovered at the Charlestown locks -- tarred, feathered and shot to death -- it appears to be a gangland killing, and is almost immediately dismissed. However, Cal O'Brien's cousin, Boston PD detective Owen Lackey, recognizes the murder style as the typical retribution for IRA informers. Combined with a tip-off about a boat coming into Boston weighed down with stolen guns and ammunition, the body in the locks hints that much more may be at stake than a one-off hit.
Serpents in the Cold introduced us to Cal and Dante, whose previous investigation brought them to the highest ranks of Boston's political elite. This time, Cal and Dante descend into the city's shadowy underbelly -- a world of packed dance halls, Irish wakes, and funeral parlors. There they discover a terrorist plot that will shake the city to its core and bring them head-to-head not only with Cal's past, but with the IRA Army Council itself.
It's June 1954, and an oppressive heat entombs Boston in O'Malley and Purdy's well-written if bleak sequel to 2015's Serpents in the Cold. Their broken antiheroes, Dante Cooper and Cal O'Brien, have each recently suffered a personal loss, and those losses are keenly felt throughout the novel. Heroin addict Dante has a fingertip hold on sobriety, while ex-cop Cal struggles to keep his security business afloat. Both answer the call, though, when Det. Owen Mackey, Cal's policeman cousin, asks for their help in his pursuit of IRA sympathizers who are running guns and murdering suspected informers. The Irish club scene of the time has a role in the story, as does Dante's skill at the piano, but the unforgiving temperatures, easy violence, and grim state of the South Boston neighborhoods overwhelm any joy that the bright lights and dance floors might impart. More than one bloody killing will catch readers by surprise.