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

3.7 out of 5 stars 82 customer reviews
Book 4 of 6 in the Quirke Series

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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.

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: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #883,897 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

Top 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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By PatC on September 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Just finished my first Benjamin Black book. It will be my last Benjamin Black book. Tiresome in the extreme. There seems to be an attempt to recreate that noir atmosphere of old American crime dramas but the attempt fails miserably. Uniformly unlikeable characters, with one more cliched than the next. The world weary alcoholic main character! The world weary French heroine who's as beautiful as she's thin! He looks at her once and falls hopelessly in love! He's big and ugly and always seems to be at a loss for words, but she falls into his arms! The unstable rich girl (but she's beautiful)! The homosexual rich boy (with a cruel glint in his eye)! The priest (who says things like ''twill')! The servant woman (with a crooked eye and a sore on her lip)! The plot line is completely riduculous, stirring a few elements from 1950s Ireland into a mish-mash that is as unlikely as it is dreary and ending up in a wholly unsatisfying denouement. Stilted dialogue and an insatiable desire to insert a boring simile at every possible turn.
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So I started with the most recent. Great read, evocative, clever. Research (not difficult) on the author revealed him to be John Banville, Booker prize winner, so an acknowledged writer of novels acknowledged to be 'good' (and I use quote marks since many of these books do not achieve mainstream acceptance, and might not be considered 'good reads' by most of the population who still read).

The Quirke novels are great, but having read all to date, out of order, there does seem to be an overarching theme, and one which despite when the novels are set, is contemporary. So I would suggest starting at the beginning, which isn't this one, but Christine Falls.

His prose is described in Wiki as dense. Which I like. Quirke is not a light read but not the consistency of say, Gibbons, but more like Waugh when not being frothy. The novels are utterly compelling.

So two questions need to be asked.
Firstly, is Benjamin Black a gateway to John Banville? In my case that will be a yes.

Secondly, given that the author has very good form as a screenwriter, could Quirke transfer to TV, and I think yes. So, Mr Banville, start the screenplay (not that you seem to have time on your hands from what your Wiki entry suggests, but we do need another long series of relatively clever TV detective fiction).
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Format: Paperback
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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