Book Reviews

The Eloquence of the Dead – Conor Brady – Book Review

The Eloquence of the Dead

Detective fiction can come in waves. Murders in the 1880s are the current vogue, be it ‘Ripper Street’ or ‘Whitechapel’. Conor Brady’s excellent contribution to the genre, ‘The Eloquence of the Dead’, can take pride of place among these portrayals of life and death in the late 19th Century and his hero, Sergeant Swallow, is a G Man to be reckoned with.

Set around the Liberties, Dublin Castle and other familiar haunts, Brady’s second detective novel is a stylish account of life in Ireland towards the end of London’s Rule – featuring the filth and the fury but mostly working as a top-notch police procedural, including such wonders the new forensic art of fingerprinting and a salon encounter with a pretentious poet; William Butler Yeats. It is a world of gas lamps, informers, trams and brothels and we are transported back to that era with what seems the minimum of effort and maximum amount of style on the author’s part.

The story itself is a good one; a murdered pawnbroker, well connected fraudsters and Dublin of a time that is both familiar and alien. Brady pours all his newspaper man’s knowledge into this evocative and compelling tale of the criminal under and over worlds of Victorian Dublin (a knowledge befitting of a former editor of the Irish Times).

Irish detective fiction has enjoyed somewhat of a boom over the last fifteen years and this book shows its author to be a valuable addition to the group of imaginers of murder and mystery. It scores highly on the historical accuracy levels and Brady has clearly done painstaking research to ensure his accounts of pub-life in 1887, or class and gender divisions ring as true as possible. There’s an empathy for the City’s Poor and down on their luck that mirrors Plunkett; however, this is not a political work, but a brilliantly executed entertainment.

‘The Eloquence of the Dead’ is ripe for TV adaptation being fast-moving, highly visual and not without humour. Brady scores with Swallow; here’s a Detective that is as flawed as any of the pantheon of sleuths and one that has the reader rooting for him as he struggles with his past and follows up the leads and the twists and turns in this challenging case. The author shows himself to be an acute observer of human nature; the foibles and the quirks of his characters from all social backgrounds are presented with great skill. An extremely eloquent read.

By Dan O’Neill – Dan writes on TV at and on Politics at

Categories: Book Reviews, Books

2 replies »

  1. I am a male Zimbabwe based writer of romance-general fiction. My books in print are available from CreateSpace and kindle from Amazon KDP. I would like to know if you do book reviews. I am at liberty to send pdf versions of any one of my books. I look forward to your response in good time.

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