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Ready Steady Book!: Unearth an 1816 murder mystery with this year’s One Dublin One Book title

Jackie Lynam of Dublin City Libraries and author Andrew Hughes interviewed about this year’s country-wide reading initiative taking place this April.

FROM JAMES JOYCE to Sally Rooney, Dublin has provided a perfect setting to some of our most beloved writers.  

Now in its 17th year, One Dublin One Book has inspired readers of all levels to connect with Ireland’s bustling capital city with Nuala O’Connor’s Nora and Ghost Light by Joseph O’Connor. This year, the initiative organised by Dublin City Council and Dublin City Libraries celebrates Andrew Hughes’ The Coroner’s Daughter, originally published in 2018. 

The idea for One Dublin One Book was inspired by a citywide reading project initially started by Seattle-based librarian, Nancy Pearl. The concept proved to be so popular that it was adopted by several cities, including Dublin in 2006. Its successful integration into the cultural calendar eventually led to Dublin being the UNESCO City of Literature in 2010. 

Jackie Lynam, from Dublin City Libraries, notes the importance of One Dublin One Book and the positive effects it’s had on promoting the pleasure of reading as well as the potential to build communities through books. “It’s a simple yet powerful idea,” Jackie Lynam tells The Journal. “To encourage both regular and reluctant readers to read, share and discuss the same book. The message is straightforward: here’s a great book, borrow it from your public library or buy your own copy, read it, and discuss it with your book club, family, work colleagues and friends. Maybe even start a book club. It’s a citywide celebration of the chosen title with a programme of free events themed around the book that allows for interesting and meaningful discussions.”

Over the years, Lynam has enjoyed seeing familiar faces come together each April to read and discuss the chosen title. Throughout the pandemic, with restrictions in place, the campaign had to adapt and move online. 

Lynam reflects on how the month-long festivities adjusted and found new ways to welcome as many readers as possible at home and abroad. “In April 2021, of course, Dublin was in Lockdown and with libraries and bookshops closed, the campaign was run online which brought in a new audience throughout the country and internationally. The chosen book Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession was discussed and celebrated in different ways including via Twitter where readers shared their thoughts and love of the book. We donated copies of the book to hospital staff across the city as a small gesture of our appreciation for all they were doing to care for the public during such a difficult time, and we got lovely feedback from them about how much the book resonated with them. We also included postcards in the books so readers could send us their feedback. So even though we couldn’t come together physically, the sense of community created by the shared reading experience remained.” 

2023’s One Dublin One Book takes readers back to 1816, known as the Year Without a Summer, where Abigail Lawless plays a crucial role in unearthing the truth about a terrible murder. Andrew Hughes, the Wexford-born author, describes the background of his second novel and reveals the inspiration behind his engaging protagonist. 

“It was a reaction to my first novel, The Convictions of John Delahunt, which was told from the point of view of a true-life Victorian murderer,” Hughes tells The Journal. “I knew that for my next book, I wanted the main character to be the hero. I wanted her to be a young woman rather than a man, and since she would need plausible access to cases of murder, The Coroner’s Daughter came to be. The character of Abigail Lawless popped into my head almost fully formed, a Jane Austen-type heroine let loose in Regency Dublin.”

Upon discovering that his 2018 novel had been selected as 2023’s title for One Dublin One Book, Hughes was overjoyed and optimistic for The Coroner’s Daughter to enjoy a second wave of widespread attention. “I was thrilled and also utterly surprised! It’s been 6 years since the book was first published so naturally, I thought its time in the spotlight had come and gone. It’s lovely for the story to be revisited with such a sense of celebration. And I think all writers hope to engage with as many readers as possible, so I’m only feeling excitement at the prospect,” says Hughes.

Throughout the month of April, several events will take place allowing readers of The Coroner’s Daughter to gain new perspectives on the story from Hughes and garner broader insights into the Dublin of the time. Lynam highlights some unmissable events featured in this year’s programme. “One of our first events is The Anatomy of Crime on April 4 in the Royal Irish Academy on Dawson Street with Andrew Hughes, and state pathologists Dr Heidi Okkers and Jill Roman who will be in conversation with Conor Brady. They’ll discuss the history of forensic science and the development of investigative techniques and their use in crime fiction, which should be fascinating.” 

She continues, “There are lots of panel discussions planned including Untold Stories – Celebrating the History of Women in Science in the beautiful Reading Room in the National Library on April 15, and on April 27 Declan Burke will be chairing a discussion in Ballymun Library with Andrew Hughes and Henrietta McKervey called Different Times Different Crimes.”

As well as contributing to many of the panels and discussions taking place, Hughes reveals that he is excited to connect with the readers: “More than anything I’m looking forward to engaging with book clubs and readers throughout April.” 

Screen Shot 2023-03-27 at 15.23.37 Dublin City Libraries Instagram Dublin City Libraries Instagram

For more information about One Dublin One Book, along with the full programme of events taking place across Dublin throughout April and access to The Coroner’s Daughter, visit their website

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