The Eloquence of the Dead
by Conor Brady
Cover Artist: Roy Bishop / Arcangel Images
Review by Mel Jacob
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250057570
Date: 15 March 2016 List Price $26.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The second novel by Irish writer Connor Brady, The Eloquence of the Dead, continues the adventures of Joe Swallow, a Detective Sergeant in 1887 Dublin. The action takes place along with the sale of land From English owners to Irish tenets involving large subsidies from the British government. Government corruption, greed, and murder force Joe along paths he doggedly pursues.
When a pawnbroker is found dead, his sister missing, and valuable merchandise is hidden away in marked boxes, Joe soon has plenty to worry him. The pawnbroker had been dead for almost a week before the sister disappeared. A number of boxes containing silver dishes and other valuables are found in the basement of the shop.
Unusual for a policeman, Joe is interested in watercolors and takes lessons. During a session, he encounters an old friend, the daughter of a Jewish pawnbroker. She tells him about some rare coins a woman wanted to pawn. When Joe stops by the pawnshop two English thugs try to rob it. He shoots one, but the other escapes. Luckily for Joe witnesses testify he shot in self-defense and to save the pawnbroker's life.
Joe’s life is complicated by inadequate or lazy supervisors, inertia of government officials, and would-be matchmakers determined to revive a romance between Joe and a beautiful tavern owner. In addition, higher level officials are involved in discouraging Joe's efforts.
Still smarting from being passed over for promotion because of his religion, Joe doggedly pursues the case. Eventually the murder, the missing woman, and the marked boxes lead to an investigation of theft and government corruption. Meanwhile, Joe’s suspicions come to the attention of higher ups.
Once the second pawnshop thug is tracked down, the police make a deal to free him in return for his help. Joe travels to England with the man in an effort to identify his London contact. Murder follows as does an attempt on a former landowner, the doughty Lady Margaret Gessel.
Brady, a former journalist, has more of a literary style than a typical mystery. Lively characters, especially Lady Margaret, add much to the reader's enjoyment. The historical background sheds light on the events and politics of Ireland during the late Victorian period.