Its not the dead that seem strange to Quirke. Its 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 corpseand 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 insidiousand very well-guardedsecrets of Dublins 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 Banvilles 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 Blacks debut marks him as a true master of the form.
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 Quirkes 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...
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).
Full Review (871 words).
Benjamin Black is the pseudonym
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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