BookBrowse Reviews Christine Falls by Benjamin Black

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Christine Falls

A Novel

by Benjamin Black

Christine Falls by Benjamin Black X
Christine Falls by Benjamin Black
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2007, 352 pages
    Feb 2008, 352 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book



A noir thriller set in 1950s Dublin by Booker-Prize winner John Banville, writing as Benjamin Black.

Christine Falls is the first novel in a planned series about hard-drinking Irish pathologist Garret Quirke written by Booker Prize winner John Banville under the open pseudonym Benjamin Black; the next volume, The Silver Swan, will be published in both the UK and USA in March.

Christine Falls
It's a suspenseful, atmospherically noir tale set in 1950s Dublin and Boston in which we meet the troubled and lonely Quirke, raised by a socially prominent local Catholic judge after being rescued from a horrendous orphanage. Quirk is also connected to the family by marriage - he married one daughter of a powerful Boston Irish-American family (who died in childbirth) while the judges son, Malachy, married the other, who Quirk also loved.

When Quirk comes to after another night of hard drinking he can't even be sure that he saw Malachy, the city's top obstetrician, writing in the morgue's record book the night before, but his recollection is confirmed when he finds Mal's pen by the book, and his suspicion that all is not as it should be is quickly confirmed when he recalls the body of Christine Falls and carries out his own autopsy. Right from the prologue we know that a baby is involved in the story, so it is of no surprise to the reader, or Quirk, when he finds that the woman did not die of an embolism but of a hemorrhage after giving birth.

However, Quirk is carrying far too much baggage of his own to have any interest in rushing into the role of avenging angel, so even though he very quickly realizes that the cause of death is not as stated he has no wish to get involved, and even goes to some lengths to divert suspicion. However, he is inevitably drawn into the mystery that appears to implicate his own family and various pillars of the Dublin Catholic society, but his inquiries lead to trouble, not just for him but for Dolly who knew Christine, and turns up dead shortly after talking with Quirk.

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.

Those who pick up Christine Falls looking for a page-turning thrill ride may find Black's style a little too contemplative for their tastes and the plot too straightforward, but those looking for a literary read with a criminal bent will find themselves well rewarded.  As thriller writer Michael Dibdin, writing in The Guardian (UK), says: "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. Crime writers have been moaning for years that their stuff never gets considered for the big literary awards; the possibility of competition from the other direction has been less discussed. If there's any justice, Banville should be able to add the CWA Gold Dagger to his heap of trophies, but I hope this doesn't start a trend. Life is hard enough for those of us who labour away down in the potboiler room without the toffs from the penthouse suites showing up and acting like they own the place."

This review was originally published in March 2007, and has been updated for the February 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Winter
    by Ali Smith
    "God was dead; to begin with." This first sentence of Winter perfectly sets up the dreamy journey ...
  • Book Jacket: A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
    A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
    by Atia Abawi

    When you're a refugee, everyone has lost, at least for the time being... And the journey ...

  • Book Jacket: Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...
  • Book Jacket: Eat the Apple
    Eat the Apple
    by Matt Young
    Truth is stranger than fiction. Matt Young's memoir tackles the space in between truth and ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Anatomy of a Miracle
    by Jonathan Miles

    A stunning novel that offers an exploration of faith, science and the meaning of life.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano

    A charming, bighearted novel starring Auntie Poldi, Sicily's newest amateur sleuth.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Balcony

The Balcony
by Jane Delury

A century-spanning novel-in-stories of a French village brimming with compassion, natural beauty, and unmistakable humanity.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One N U G

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.