Some weeks ago I mentioned the publication of Conor Brady's new historical crime novel, A June of Ordinary Murders. The book's publisher, New Island, was kind enough to send me a review copy and here, alas, is the review!
'J.G. Farrell, the Liverpool-born, Irish novelist, renowned for his historical fictions, who died, too young, in 1979, wrote: “History leaves so much out … It leaves out the most important thing: the detail of what being alive is like.” In his debut historical crime novel, A June of Ordinary Murders, Conor Brady goes a long way toward showing us what being alive was like for a Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) detective working a murder case during a heat wave in Dublin, circa 1887. A crime novel rich in period detail and confident characterisation, the reader of A June of Ordinary Murders can almost feel the heat oppressing Dublin, smell the stench of the rancid Liffey at low ebb.
|Dublin Castle--the seat of British rule in Ireland|
and headquarters for G-Division of the DMP
|Brady shows us early adaptations of |
supposedly cutting-edge CSI
Swallow is a believable and sympathetic protagonist and his relationship with the publican, Maria Walsh, is particularly well drawn. Another of the book's strengths, in fact, is its portrayal of female characters as rounded and modern in a way in perfect keeping with the waning Victorian setting. All of the characters in the novel live on the page in a way that is never anachronistic. It is the duty of the historical novelist to remind us that, while times change, people don't, and Brady pulls this off with panache.
His writing is clear and comfortable, as one would expect from a former journalist of Brady's stature, and the research, historical and criminal, exudes authenticity. Again, a minor quibble, but perhaps too much of this fascinating research is evidenced in the early chapters; there is a long explanation of the Land War which, while interesting, admirably objective and well presented, would be better suited to a history textbook and could have been summarised neatly in a paragraph or bedded in the dialogue. This tendency to over-inclusion of hard-won research--an occupational hazard for all historical novelists, myself very much included--fades, however, as the narrative progresses and we are left with a cracking whodunnit, rich in period detail and peopled with wholly believable, complex characters of whom I hope to see more of in future Joe Swallow novels. All in all, a powerful, well-researched debut from Brady. A June of Ordinary Murders is no ordinary historical novel and comes to you highly recommended by this reader.