Danny Carnahan. A Jig Before Dying: The First Sweeney & Rose Mystery (2008) 198 pp. [tpo]
It is 1992 and Niall Sweeney is a satisfied man. He’s got a good day job in San Francisco as an engineer (one that recently took him to Dublin for two years on a job working for the Anglo-Irish Bank), a beautiful, intelligent wife, Rose, and a second career as an Irish fiddler (he has just released his first CD to moderate success), playing regular sessions at a Richmond District pub called the Bag of Nails. His world is turned upside down, however, when he is attacked by a music critic, first in print in a scathing review of his CD, then literally in the pub, when the reviewer, a recent transplant from Ireland named Michael Blayney, comes after him with a string of seemingly incoherent curses and a knife. When Blayney turns up murdered later that night, Sweeney is, of course, the prime suspect. Things begin to look really grim when the police link him to a banking scam involving the IRA and he is promptly fired from his job. Convinced that one or more of the pub musicians must know more than he, or she, is telling—and also convinced that this is the only way he is going to stay out of jail—Sweeney starts an investigation of his own. Meanwhile, Rose, who is a literature professor at San Francisco State University, recognizes a similarity between Blayney’s ravings and a thousand-year old Irish poem, The Legend of Mad Sweeney, and begins her own investigation. With the help of one of Sweeney’s friends in Ireland, they begin to uncover the secrets and sins of the past—both political and personal—and are faced with the terrible task of giving the police a plausible solution to the mystery that is both just and completely false.
Setting: San Francisco (Richmond District; 1992)