Book Review: Dead in Dublin by Catie Murphy
By Michelle MastroJanuary 7, 2020
Dead in Dublin by Catie Murphy is a fun mystery that offers much for the reader’s enjoyment. Seeing Irish people and culture through an American’s eyes, the story’s memorable characters, and the fast pacing are just some of the book’s attractions. But even more appealing for readers, this reviewer suspects, might be the amateur sleuth of the novel.
Dead in Dublin is a cozy mystery with an amateur sleuth in tune with our present era. She, Megan Malone, the book’s protagonist, is resourceful, smart, and quick with a retort, without leaving room for being mistaken as reckless or mettlesome, an unwanted interloper into police work. Unfortunately, this is so often the judgment adopted by other characters, especially detectives, in cozy mysteries that center on a female sleuth. The lead male detective’s eye rolls in many a Miss Marple mystery are so commonplace, for example, they must have perpetuated, if not made, the convention.
But in Dead in Dublin, none of Megan’s problem solving is viewed as exasperating or intrusive by the novel’s detective, Paul Bourke. And although it seems unlikely that the family of the recently deceased would prefer that Megan assist in solving the mystery surrounding their daughter’s untimely death than give all their faith over to the police alone, the book still provides the storyline enough plausibility to make Megan’s involvement conceivable. As a reader, one can easily take on faith the idea that because Megan is an affable Texan, she would be the probable confidant of the grieving American family, whose only daughter, Elizabeth Darr—a famous food critic and blogger—dies under suspicious circumstances in Dublin. From the get-go, readers learn: “Megan only liked to talk to people and find out their stories, which meant driving a limo was about the perfect job for her. It also made her adore the Irish query ‘what’s the story?’ which meant anything from ‘how are you’ to ‘what’s going on? She always wanted the answer to that question, and listened well enough that people often told her.” Megan is a plausible character and fun to follow as she unravels the mystery of Liz’s demise.
What’s more, the book seems to intentionally carve out a space for other kinds of gender identities in the mystery novel. One such example occurs when, while making her rounds questioning leads, Megan encounters a youth: “The youth—Megan couldn’t tell from the shaggy hair, skinny frame, and loose clothes, whether they subscribed to a gender binary or not—shrugged sourly.”
“A ‘wan’ in Irish parlance generally meant a woman; ‘yer man’ and ‘yer wan’ had, Megan suspected, some kind of basis in the same kind of institutional sexism in the Irish language that begot the question, ‘was it a boy or a child?’ when babies were born. She hadn’t quite worked up the resolution to try getting to the bottom of the linguistic matter, although it nagged at her whenever she heard it.”
Readers worried that certain kinds of genre fiction might propagate gendered stereotypes can rejoice in knowing Dead in Dublin significantly goes out of its way to avoid such missteps. Moreover, the novel’s story embraces a slew of different characters with all types of backgrounds, opening the possibility of future books in the series engaging even more with other fascinating figures in Megan’s large cast of friends, like Niamh O’Sullivan, an actress of color:
“Niamh, whose Afro-Caribbean heritage made her stand out in the pantheon of successful Irish film and stage stars, had been questioned about the authenticity of her Irish roots, but the tone had been particularly condescending. Niamh had eviscerated him with a smile, and while the embarrassed broadcast networks had cut away during her speech, more than one company—and several individuals—had caught it in full. She’d gone viral, upstaging the awards show, and her ascending star had suddenly risen in meteoritic fire. Megan had been driving her that night; it was how they’d met.”
Dead in Dublin serves up an interesting whodunit story as it helps push the cozy mystery genre forward into the new decade. One cannot help but be curious to see how this new series unfolds.