“Declan Burke is his own genre. The Lammisters dazzles, beguiles and transcends. Virtuoso from start to finish.” – Eoin McNamee “This bourbon-smooth riot of jazz-age excess, high satire and Wodehouse flamboyance is a pitch-perfect bullseye of comic brilliance.” – Irish Independent Books of the Year 2019 “This rapid-fire novel deserves a place on any bookshelf that grants asylum to PG Wodehouse, Flann O’Brien or Kyril Bonfiglioli.” – Eoin Colfer, Guardian Best Books of the Year 2019 “The funniest book of the year.” – Sunday Independent “Declan Burke is one funny bastard. The Lammisters ... conducts a forensic analysis on the anatomy of a story.” – Liz Nugent “Burke’s exuberant prose takes centre stage … He plays with language like a jazz soloist stretching the boundaries of musical theory.” – Totally Dublin “A mega-meta smorgasbord of inventive language ... linguistic verve not just on every page but every line.Irish Times “Above all, The Lammisters gives the impression of a writer enjoying himself. And so, dear reader, should you.” – Sunday Times “A triumph of absurdity, which burlesques the literary canon from Shakespeare, Pope and Austen to Flann O’Brien … The Lammisters is very clever indeed.” – The Guardian

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Murder Less Ordinary

I had a review of Conor Brady’s A JUNE OF ORDINARY MURDERS published in the Irish Times yesterday, which could well have been a delicate commission, given that Conor Brady is a former editor of said Irish Times. I enjoyed the book tremendously, though, not least for its historical detail and setting, and for its complex protagonist, Detective Sergeant Joe Swallow, who reminded me very much of Kevin McCarthy’s RIC Sergeant O’Keefe in PEELER (2010).
  There have been some very interesting historical crime novels set in Ireland recently: Kevin McCarthy’s PEELER, as noted; Eoin McNamee’s novels from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s; Benjamin Black’s novels, set in 1950s Dublin; Cora Harrison’s fifteenth century books set in Clare’s Burren country; Adrian McKinty’s THE COLD COLD GROUND, which is set during the hunger strikes of 1981.
  It’s a relatively small number of titles, but it makes for an interesting trend, and A JUNE OF ORDINARY MURDERS is a fine addition to the ranks. To wit:
DUBLIN SWELTERS IN the notorious heatwave of June 1887 as Conor Brady’s debut novel opens. The authorities at Dublin Castle are more concerned with the city’s simmering political tensions. With Prince Albert Victor due in Dublin to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee against a backdrop of violent Land League agitation, the castle is concerned that any one of a number of subversive organisations might attempt an assassination.
  So when Det Sgt Joseph Swallow of Dublin Metropolitan Police’s G division is sent to the Chapelizod Gate in Phoenix Park to investigate the discovery of the badly mutilated bodies of a man and a young boy, the authorities are initially relieved that the murders are “ordinary” rather than politically motivated.
  In all the best crime fiction, however, a juicy murder tends to minimise the distance between the criminal fraternity and the higher echelons of society, and such is the case in A June of Ordinary Murders . The death of career criminal Cecelia “Pisspot Ces” Downes makes matters trickier for Swallow, as her grasping lieutenants jockey to fill the power vacuum left in her wake, and the subsequent discovery of a young woman’s body in the Grand Canal complicates things even more.
  Brady weaves a police procedural that does full justice to the complex nature of the social, political and criminal labyrinth that was Dublin in the summer of 1887. He paints a vivid picture of the city as it bakes beneath the unrelenting sun, employing Joe Swallow’s sharp eye and the character’s ambitions as an amateur painter to deftly sketch both its landmarks and its less salubrious corners.
  The novel is set at the dawn of what we would now consider to be the age of forensic science, and we find Swallow dabbling in such radical innovations as ballistics and reconstructive portraiture. There’s also the occasional nugget of historical delight to be gleaned, such as the archaic notion of a “dying declaration”, a legal concept that held a man’s final words to be sound as evidence in court, on the basis that no dying man would knowingly lie.
  For the rest, clickety-click here

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