Summary and book reviews of Christine Falls by Benjamin Black

Christine Falls

A Novel

By Benjamin Black

Christine Falls
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2007,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2008,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

It’s not the dead that seem strange to Quirke. It’s the living. One night, after a few drinks at an office party, Quirke shuffles down into the morgue where he works and finds his brother-in-law, Malachy, altering a file he has no business even reading. Odd enough in itself to find Malachy there, but the next morning, when the haze has lifted, it looks an awful lot like his brother-in-law, the esteemed doctor, was in fact tampering with a corpse—and concealing the cause of death.

It turns out the body belonged to a young woman named Christine Falls. And as Quirke reluctantly presses on toward the true facts behind her death, he comes up against some insidious—and very well-guarded—secrets of Dublin’s high Catholic society, among them members of his own family.

Set in Dublin and Boston in the 1950s, the first novel in the Quirke series brings all the vividness and psychological insight of Booker Prize winner John Banville’s fiction to a thrilling, atmospheric crime story. Quirke is a fascinating and subtly drawn hero, Christine Falls is a classic tale of suspense, and Benjamin Black’s debut marks him as a true master of the form.

Chapter One

It was not the dead that seemed to Quirke uncanny but the living. When he walked into the morgue long after midnight and saw Malachy Griffin there he felt a shiver along his spine that was to prove prophetic, a tremor of troubles to come. Mal was in Quirke’s office, sitting at the desk. Quirke stopped in the unlit body room, among the shrouded forms on their trolleys, and watched him through the open doorway. He was seated with his back to the door, leaning forward intently in his steel-framed spectacles, the desk lamp lighting the left side of his face and making an angry pink glow through the shell of his ear. He had a file open on the desk before him and was writing in it with peculiar awkwardness. This would have struck Quirke as stranger than it did if he had not been drunk. The scene sparked a memory in him from their school days together, startlingly clear, of Mal, intent like this, sitting at a desk among fifty other earnest students in...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About this Guide
The following author biography and list of questions about Christine Falls are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach Christine Falls.


About the Book
Set in Dublin and Boston in the 1950s, the story of a surly, hard-drinking pathologist named Quirke who uncovers a conspiracy that begins with his brother-in-law and reaches deep into Dublin's Catholic society--and into his own past.


Discussion Questions

  1. "In secret," the author writes, "Quirke prized his loneliness...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Black's 1950s Dublin is a moody, atmospheric place where carthorses mingle with cars, the pubs are fugged up with smoke, girls take tea in hats, and the attitudes of society are dominated by the rigid dogma of the Catholic Church, but times are changing, as epitomized by Phoebe, the restless daughter of Mal and Sarah who is determined to make her own way and marry who she wishes, even if he is a Protestant.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
New York Times - Janet Maslin

Christine Falls rolls forward with haunting, sultry exoticism ... toward the best kind of denouement under these circumstances: a half-inconclusive one.

Kirkus Reviews

A good story, and gorgeous writing.

Publishers Weekly

Though Black makes an occasional American cultural blooper, he keeps divulging surprises to the last page so that the reader is simultaneously shocked and satisfied.

Booklist - Thomas Gaughan

Nearly all the characters are painstakingly detailed and developed--even though they're likely to be morally mysterious. But readers' advisors should take note: crime-fiction fans who favor garden-variety mysteries may find this complex and deeply ruminative novel more than they bargained for.

Library Journal

While Christine Falls reads like an accessible, classic detective story, its confident manner and psychological portrait of a conflicted, broken narrator set it apart from mass-market fare.

The Guardian - Michael Dibdin

It would be absurd to suggest that Banville writing as Black is better than Banville writing as Banville, but in a different and yet fascinatingly similar way he is every bit as good, and deserves to win a new, broader readership with this fine book.

Author Blurb Alan Furst
Christine Falls is a triumph, of classical crime fiction, finely, carefully made, not a single false move or wrong word—why oh why don’t they write books like this anymore.

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Beyond the Book

Benjamin Black is the pseudonym of John Banville who was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He was educated at a Christian Brother's school and St Peter's College in Wexford. After leaving college he worked for the Irish airline Aer Lingus in Dublin, Ireland - which gave him the opportunity to travel widely.  He lives in Dublin.

His first book - Long Lankin, a collection of short stories, was published in 1970. It was followed by two novels, Nightspawn (1971) and Birchwood (1973). Dr Copernicus (historical fiction) won the James Tait ...

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