A Hunt in Winter: A Joe Swallow Mystery

Written by Conor Brady
Review by Loyd Uglow

Dublin detective Joe Swallow returns in a third volume, this time to solve a series of murderous attacks on young women, attacks that have thrown the city into panic. It is 1888, and the Jack the Ripper killings in London have made many Dubliners think the fiend may be continuing his spree in their city. Promoted now to detective inspector, Swallow finds that being an Irish policeman serving under English superiors can be just as difficult as finding the killer, and sometimes almost as dangerous. His personal life is also under stress as he struggles with the questions of whether to marry the woman he lives with and whether to give up police work for the cozier occupation of publican.

The story is engaging, and Brady does an excellent job in characterization of Swallow and the lesser players. Readers will bond with the Irishman from the beginning and care about his personal triumphs and losses. The author’s mastery of setting makes late 19th-century Dublin come alive. The novel is more a police procedural than a pure mystery and is thus somewhat more realistic than the latter genre. That realism, however, brings a resolution that is not quite as satisfying as it might have been. Stylistically the novel suffers a bit from long passages of description and backstory, sometimes coming in the midst of dialogue exchanges and confusing the reader. Nevertheless, the plot and characterization carry the novel and make it an enjoyable read.