A police detective lands a case that could ruin his career.
DS Joe Swallow is a member of the elite G Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. In June 1887, the country awaits the arrival of British royalty to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee at a time when many are fighting for independence. Swallow has gone far for a Catholic. He lost his chance to become a doctor when he drank his way through a few years of college, but he’s a dedicated detective investigating what’s called ordinary crime, that with no political connections. Called to a murder scene in a quiet park, Swallow and his men find two bodies, one a young boy, shot to death, their faces badly disfigured. The next day, Swallow’s friend Dr. Lafeyre, the medical examiner (who's engaged to the sister of Swallow’s landlady and lover, pub owner Maria Walsh), discovers that the second body is not a man but a woman wearing men’s clothes. Swallow takes a lot of heat from the newspapers over the mistake. With few clues and no identification, he knows it won’t be easy to find the killer. To make matters worse, the country is baking in the midst of an unusual heat wave, and the death of formidable criminal Ces Downes has caused tension between two warring factions of her criminal enterprise. While Swallow is still mired in his first case, he gets another: A woman found in a canal, a servant in the house of the influential Alderman Thomas Fitzpatrick, has been bludgeoned to death. This case is quickly taken away from him because of its political import. But when he finds a link between the two cases, he puts his whole career in jeopardy to pursue them.
Brady’s powerful first mystery novel is evocative of the period. The many aspects of life in 19th-century Dublin are cleverly woven through a baffling mystery.