by Conor Brady
1888 'Detective Sergeant Joe Swallow (now promoted to detective inspector)' is faced with the murders of three young women sending the residents of Dublin into a frantic state of fear and panic. Are the murders linked or not? Is this a Jack the Ripper copycat or has the Ripper come across the Irish Sea?
Swallow is part of the Dublin G-Dividion. 'Fifty-odd detectives investigated crime across the city, and were also the administration’s first and principal bulwark against political subversion. Their responsibilities ran from protecting the chief men who governed Ireland for the Crown to keeping watch on Fenians ... and the ever-multiplying groups that wanted, for one reason or another, to overthrow the established order.'
At this moment the G-Men are needed to come up with answers to the murders. Not be diverted by the wishes of the whose sole motivation is to keep tabs on various Irish groups at the behest of the Crown. The G-Men are at odds with the Secret Service officers, mainly men with a military background, who are currently looking for anything to get on the leader of the Irish Party at Westminster, Charles Stewart Parnell. Their lines of enquiry are looking to blacken Parnell's character in the hope to end the bid for Irish home rule. They want the G-Men's official note books. And that looking for notes leads to a personal tragedy for Swallow.
His bête noir is Major Nigel Kelly. Swallow thought him a fraud and a poseur.
Swallow's boss, John Mallon, the chief superintendent describes Kelly as, 'a sour bastard, and a dangerous one [with] a face like a wolf, and the instincts of one.'
I absolutely disliked Kelly at a gut level. The adversarial position between the two law enforcement branches runs deep. The tension between them is palpable. As is that between Kelly and Swallow.
How those tensions run through the criminal investigation and color the political investigations gives legs to this vivid drama that grabs this particular historical period with a rawness that's both particular and defining.
A NetGalley ARC