It’s 2010 and Ireland is reeling from the financial crash. People are losing their jobs, their homes – their minds even. Every day another blow lands, another rumour, another crisis. That factory’s closing? Is it true the Army’s going to be called in to guard the ATMs? People are turning on one another too. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be in Ireland.
The wife of jailed criminal Tony Cummins has her own reasons to be frantic, however: their only surviving son Gary is missing. Neither she nor Tony trust the Guards to do a proper search for him. She turns to her lifelong friend, Sheila, for help. With Bernie Cummins facing cancer, no way will Sheila let her down. She’ll even lean on her son, Sergeant Tommy Malone.
Tommy has enough on his plate already. His fiancée has done a bunk on him. She couldn’t take his antics anymore – his midnight madness. Haunted by his unwitting role in the murder of a colleague, Tommy regularly catapults from sleep to crouch by the side of the bed, pistol in hand and ranging the darkness to target figures from his nightmare.
Then there’s the job. Garda morale is tanking. It’s not just the cut-backs and the pay freezes. There’s a creeping feeling that the bad guys are winning; a feeling that the Guards are actually outmatched. Veterans in Drugs Central know all too well that the cartels controlling the drug business rule the roost.
To put the tin hat on it, Garda brass is growing ever more leery of Tommy Malone. Is it just because Tommy was reared by a single mother in Crumlin? That he maintains friendships with fellas there, too many of whom are known to the Guards? And what about his town brother Terry, dead of a drug overdose?
Tommy may be a newly-minted Sergeant but he just keeps attracting trouble. Yes, the Ombudsman’s report cleared him in the death of a suspect he was chasing across a rooftop. But does anyone believe it was ‘misadventure?’ That was on top of the murder of a fellow Guard who was out test-driving Tommy’s old Escort. Obviously, Malone was the target – but why? Coppers are not big believers in coincidence.
So it’s all just too much. Maybe, Tommy thinks, maybe it’s time to do what he swore he’d never do – line up with all the others at the Departures gate. Hasn’t Bren Earley, his pal from Pearse Street days, told him he could get him a lig in with the Queensland police? Maybe.
Then Tommy’s Ma phones. And Ma’s Ma - he can’t deny her.
Tommy’s ten-minute meeting with Bernie Gannon was supposed to end with him giving her the brush-off, and telling her that there was nothing he could do for her. That way he’d have done his bit for his Ma.
So much for plans. In short order, Tommy is shanghaied into a complex police operation. Worse, he has to answer to a gung-ho careerist, rising star Inspector Nolan, a bollocks who is callous enough to dangle false hope over a dying woman.
But when things begin to go haywire, Tommy is forced to ask himself who really has his back here. His pal Spots Feeney, becomes entangled when Tommy’s clumsy nosing around in the Cummins family brings trouble to Spots’ door. Spots has his own issues. Sure, he’ll get onside here, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have his own agenda here.
Tommy’s about to find out just how hard it is to sort who the good guys are these days.