The Coroner’s Daughter

Written by Andrew Hughes
Review by Lisa Redmond

Andrew Hughes’ second novel returns to the Dublin setting of his first (The Convictions of John Delahunt) but earlier in the century, to the summer of 1816 when northern Europe was engulfed in a wintry fog which perplexed scientists and caused much proclamation about the end of the world from religious fanatics. It was known as the year without a summer. The young lady of the title is Abigail Lawless, 18 years old, a budding scientist full of curiosity and passion for learning. When a young nursemaid in the house of a neighbouring family apparently murders her newborn, Abigail cannot help being intrigued about the young woman’s circumstances. She discovers a message from the young maid’s lover and is soon embroiled in an investigation into the fanatical religious sect known as The Brethren and their bitter rivals, the rationalist Royal Astronomer Professor Reeves and his followers.

Abigail is clever, defiant and resourceful. Her father has provided a thorough scientific education, and while he is aware of her intelligence he is also aware of the restrictions society imposes on her as a woman, and there are a number of clashes between father and daughter. Andrew Hughes is a wonderfully talented author, bringing Dublin and its surroundings to life with deft characterizations, detailed but never laboured descriptions, and a plot which will have readers racing through the pages. An utterly transporting book and highly recommended.