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A Death in Summer: A Novel (Quirke) Hardcover – July 5, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"[Benjamin Black’s] books about the dour Irish pathologist named Quirke have effortless flair, with their period-piece cinematic ambience and their sultry romance. The Black books are much more like Alan Furst’s elegant, doom-infused World War II spy books than like standard crime tales."—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"Black’s drab Dublin streets are full of perplexing figures, archetypes, as if the characters were stalking through some Jungian map of the unconscious: weakened, dying fathers, good mothers, bad mothers, twins, ‘dark doubles,’ ghosts surging up from the past… His narratives are loaded with poetic devices."—The New Yorker

"Black has improved with every book, and the latest, A Death in Summer, is his best yet… [Black] knows how to create a first-rate sleuth—the ungainly, middle-aged Dublin pathologist Quirke, a man who can never seem to keep his nose out of trouble."—Malcolm Jones, The Daily Beast

"The author of the Booker Prize-winning The Sea, Banville is a literary artist, whereas Black is a craftsman who churns out page-turning crime tales… Banville’s latest Benjamin Black novel is another complex character study disguised as a plot-driven work of genre fiction."—The Kansas City Star

"[A Death in Summer] is an elegant novel, well-paced with dramatic twists, disturbing surprises and richly drawn characters whose actions and motives have a tangible psychological depth.

Mr. Black/Banville is well in form here... It can be either plunged into without any need to reference the previous three or else taken as a welcome new installment of a sequential quartet by one of Ireland’s leading contemporary novelists."—New York Journal of Books

About the Author

Benjamin Black is the pen name of the novelist John Banville.  As Black, he is the author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Quirke novels, including Christine Falls, The Silver Swan, and Elegy for April, and his standalone novel, The Lemur. Christine Falls was nominated for both the Edgar Award and Macavity Award for Best Novel. Writing as John Banville, his novel The Sea is the winner of the 2005 Man Booker Prize. Black was born in Wexford, Ireland, and lives in Dublin.

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Product Details

  • Series: Quirke (Book 4)
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition edition (July 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805090924
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805090925
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #884,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Benjamin Black, the pen name of acclaimed novelist John Banville, is the author of Christine Falls and The Silver Swan. Christine Falls was nominated for both the Edgar Award and Macavity Award for Best Novel; both Christine Falls and Silver Swan were national bestsellers. Banville lives in Dublin.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Writing as Benjamin Black, novelist John Banville mines the shadowed psyche of his protagonist, Quirke, a pathologist in 1950s Dublin with a troubled personal history, a penchant for the false courage- and sometimes oblivion- of alcohol and a deep understanding of human nature. Quirke is particularly appealing in this novel, the pages of time turned back to post-war Dublin, society bound tightly by social conventions, the entrenched security of wealth and power and the overweening influence of the Catholic Church on every aspect of life. Called by DCI Hackett to examine the body of wealthy publisher Richard "Diamond Dick" Jewell at his country estate, Quirke falls into a familiar pattern, crime scene plus curiosity drawing him into yet another secret-laden mystery. Although in a relationship with Isobel Galloway, Quirke's attraction to the widow, Françoise d'Aubigny, renders his judgment questionable, his thoughts spinning like a young man in love for the first time, a burly dancing bear unable to control his obvious infatuation.

Make no mistake: Quirke is no fool, but a seasoned, weary traveler on life's twisted road with a surplus of regrets and hard-learned lessons, such a flawed, sympathetic character, that it is impossible not to root for him. Scene by scene, the tale is meticulously assembled, a black and white image painted in varied shades of personal history, affection, hostility, public accommodation and hoarded resentments, each bearing the bitter fruit of exposure, a murder masquerading as suicide. Black is a master of intimacies and idiosyncrasies in a country exhausted by world war, ugly secrets bleak harbingers of danger and death, revelation painfully inevitable.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on June 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Richard "Diamond Dick" Jewell, a wealthy businessman, stable owner, newspaper publisher, and orphanage sponsor, is dead at his desk, his head blown off. He is found "clutching a shotgun in his bloodless hands," an obvious attempt to disguise a murder as suicide. Detective Inspector Hackett is joined at the crime scene by his friend Dr. Quirke, filling in for the government's pathologist, who has been rendered unavailable by a heart attack. The initial suspects include Jewell's sophisticated French wife, Françoise d'Aubigny, who doesn't seem overly distressed at his demise; Maguire, the yard manager who was convicted of a violent crime many years earlier; the arrogant Carlton Sumner, a rival businessman with whom Jewell had recently quarreled; and Sumner's son Teddy. Jewell and Carlton Sumner are also linked by Sumner's maid, Marie Bergin, who once worked for Jewell. Another link -- one that appears to join all the suspects -- is St. Christopher's orphanage. Quirke is also linked to St. Christopher's, having resided there during some of his childhood.

Quirke is quite taken with Françoise, particularly when she invites him to lunch to discuss her husband's death. The lunch is probably inappropriate given Quirke's romantic (or at least physical) involvement with Isabel Galloway; it's even less appropriate that he continues to see her. It's sometimes difficult to understand what motivates Quirke -- why, for instance, would he accept an invitation from Giselle, Françoise's nine-year-old daughter, to see her bedroom during Richard's wake? -- other than to note that Quirke often views the world through an alcohol-induced haze and seems to move passively through his life without giving anything (except the mystery at hand) a great deal of thought.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Joel Graber on August 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This being the fourth novel in a series, one wonders how this dour Dublin pathologist has attracted, in his small world, successive psycho-killers, all outside his job title? That conceit is reminescient of the spate of Scandanavian crime novels; but the Millenium Trilogy these are not.

Though Banville/Black writes beautifully, and these books might be almost throwaways (beach books in this season) to the great man himself, diversions in his down time between works of literature, the characters, both male and female, are, as some reviewers have noted, undeveloped and unpersuasive, starting with the central character who somehow manages to bed the most beautiful and interesting women for miles around for no apparent reason, yet remains bereft, permanently damaged from an orphan childhood. Been there; done that.

Some abstemious American reviewers have been annoyed by the seemingly gratuitious obsession with cigarettes and related paraphernalia, which does make the books read like a noir film script, no doubt what Banville's going for. This story is set in 1956 and the others a little earlier, times when smoking was de rigueur. Fortunately, however, Banville didn't forget gorse (hardcover 115), which is charming because American readers have no idea of gorse. And, of course, every cloud and sea is mauve, and much more, at some point or other.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 19, 2011
Format: Audio CD
As many know, Booker Award - winning novelist John Banville sometimes writes crime based novels under the name Benjamin Black. John Keating performs under his own name, and his reading of A DEATH IN SUMMER is a winner.

Keating is a natural to bring Dublin based Quirke to life as he has often performed with the Irish Repertory Theater and the Irish Arts Center. He is well remembered for his narration of Black's The Lemur as Publishers Weekly noted with this comment, "John Keating is simply marvelous here. His strong Irish accent does wonders when combined with Black's prose, creating a dark, brooding, and occasionally funny atmosphere that will surely draw listeners into the tale."

No doubt about also being drawn into this tale, the fourth featuring pathologist Dr. Garrett Quirke who can't resist not only discovering the cause of death when another body is delivered to the morgue but if the death isn't due to natural causes he simply has to find out who-dun-it. This he does handily with the help of his old friend Detective Inspector Hackett.

As Quirke's daughter says, he should have been a detective - even when the deceased is a big time newspaper man, Richard Jewell, (Diamond Dick to his enemies) who departs this life via a shotgun blast to his head. It's a bit puzzling that Dick's lovely French wife, Francoise, doesn't seem overcome by the loss of her husband, while Jewell's sister, Dannie, all but takes to her bed to grieve. It's a surprise to Quirke to learn that Dannie seeks solace from David Sinclair, Quirke's assistant in the pathology lab. Quite a surprise as Sinclair has been dating Quirke's daughter, Phoebe.

Factor into all of this a major heat wave melting the city and the emergence of secrets concerning Jewell's empire.
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