A June of Ordinary Murders

Written by Conor Brady
Review by Tom Vallar

It is 1887. Victoria is celebrating her 50th year as monarch, Ireland is sweltering under record heat, and among the scores of weather-related deaths are three seemingly unsolvable murders. Yet Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) officials focus more on presenting a good front during Victoria’s son’s ceremonial visit than in doing the real work required to bring the killers to justice.

Into the fray steps Detective Sergeant Joe Swallow, a 20-year DMP veteran, who has seen his share of failures and successes. His career as a doctor went down the drain in drink, so, with his best friend, the medical examiner, they piece together the scant clues with both science and guile to solve the murders – and foil a plot on the prince’s life in the bargain.

This procedural displays Dublin – with its grand castle and its grimier underbelly – as anything but “ordinary.” Debut novelist Brady simply can’t avoid his journalistic background as he details routes of travel and local color to the smallest detail, to the detriment of the plot. As a result, the action is sparse (just seven of the 380 pages), and Swallow reminds me of another Sergeant Joe (Friday, of Dragnet and “Just the facts” fame).