Thursday, March 22, 2007

Benjamin Black's "Christine Falls"

I finished Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (John Banville's crime-writing pen-name), a couple of weeks ago, yet I keep putting off writing a review.

Rather than delay any longer, I'll quote some lines from other reviewers that capture my opinion of the book. (Lazy, for sure, but there are so many reviews of this book that I don't feel I'm cheating author or reader.)
Christine Falls is crossover fiction of a very high order. Its mystery plot, while by no means lacking conviction, is frequently upstaged by the aptness and beauty of its insinuating visions.
--Janet Maslin

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.
--Michael Dibdin

I was entranced and enmeshed and otherwise embroiled in Black’s tale, classic Dublin noir--if there was such a thing--set in the 1950s and following the familial misdeeds of a Dublin pathologist we only ever know as “Quirke.”
--Linda L. Richards
By the way, I was fairly certain that I'd figured out the main who-done-it question early on -- and, while I'm not usually very good at that, I was correct -- but the mystery really isn't the main point in this novel.

About the novel, from the publisher:
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.
--Marshal Zeringue