A police detective in Victorian-era Dublin catches another case with political ramifications, in a novel by a former editor of the Irish Times.
When pawnbroker Ambrose Pollock is murdered in his shop and his sister is nowhere to be found, the police take a beating in the press. The bad publicity is especially painful for Sgt. Joe Swallow, a star in the special plainclothes G-Division whose talents have not yet resulted in the promotion he deserves, perhaps because he’s a Catholic in a country still ruled by Great Britain. The pawnbroker has been dead for some time, and clues suggest that his sister may have been involved, but a meeting with an old acquaintance at Joe’s painting class links the late Mr. Pollock to another crime. Joe recently ended his relationship with the widow Maria Walsh. Her sister, who teaches the class, is engaged to a friend of his, medical examiner Dr. Harry Lafeyre, and is protective of Maria’s claim on Joe. Pupils in the class include old friend Katherine Greenberg, who runs an antiques shop with her father. After Katherine reports that a woman brought in some Greek coins and sold them for a low price, Joe walks in on two men trying to rob the shop and demanding to know who sold the coins. He learns that both the coins and a large amount of engraved silver plate found in the murdered pawnbroker Pollock’s cellar came from the Gessel estate, which was recently sold to its tenant farmers under a scheme whereby the government buys the property and allows the tenants to keep the land they farmed. Now that it appears someone’s been skimming from various estates, Joe travels to London looking for a person with high authority and enough money to hire the assassins who must be involved.
The second case for the talented, complicated Swallow (A June of Ordinary Murders, 2015) again spins a fine mystery out of political corruption in 1880s Dublin.