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Christine Falls: A Novel (Quirke) Paperback – January 22, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
In this expertly paced debut thriller from Irish author Black (the pseudonym of Booker Prize–winner John Banville), pathologist Garret Quirke uncovers a web of corruption in 1950s Dublin surrounding the death in childbirth of a young maid, Christine Falls. Quirke is pulled into the case when he confronts his stepbrother, physician Malachy Griffin, who's altering Christine's file at the city morgue. Soon it appears the entire establishment is in denial over Christine's mysterious demise and in a conspiracy that recalls the classic film Chinatown. And the deeper Quirke delves into the mystery, the more it seems to implicate his own family and the Catholic church. At the start, the novel has the spare melancholy of early James Joyce, describing a Dublin of private clubs, Merrion Square townhouses and the occasional horse-drawn cart; as the plot heats up and the action shifts to Boston, Mass., it becomes more of a standard detective story. Though Black makes an occasional American cultural blooper, he keeps divulging surprises to the last page so that the reader is simultaneously shocked and satisfied. Author tour. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Christine Falls may be Benjamin Black's debut crime novel, but it's not his first book: Black is the nom de plumeof John Banville, the Booker Prize?winning author of The Sea (****1/2 Jan/Feb 2006). As expected, Banville's lyrical writing stands out (and is more accessible than in The Sea), but the expressive style doesn't eclipse the dark, suspenseful plot. Set during the all-powerful reign of the Catholic Church, the novel touches on themes of sexual repression, grief, and lost opportunities. Readers expecting a fast-paced crime novel may initially be surprised by Banville's slow, deliberate rendering of the plot and the complex charactersbut they will certainly look forward to the next novel in this projected series.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The woman whose name is on the cover of this engrossing tale of murder, betrayal, and corruption on high has arrived in Quirke's morgue, deemed a suicide by the police. When Quirke comes across his brother-in-law, Malachy Griffin, doctoring the records of the young woman's death, he develops an irresistible urge to examine the case more closely. Naturally, he finds that the reason for the woman's death was anything but suicide. Pursuing the investigation out of sheer stubbornness and curiosity despite warnings from all quarters to leave it alone, Quirke soon finds himself in jeopardy for his life. As he approaches ever more closely to an understanding of a mysterious scheme involving the Catholic hierarchy and high society both in Ireland and in Boston as well as members of his own family, the stakes continue to rise.
Christine Falls is an eminently worthy debut for the Quirke series. I previously reviewed the second in the series, The Silver Swan. And, yes, of course I wish I'd read them in the proper order. Nonetheless, even knowing in advance how the case would be resolved, I found Christine Falls thoroughly enjoyable.
John Banville, aka Benjamin Black, is an award-winning Irish author whose distinctions include the Booker Prize. He is reputedly often mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Banville writes the Quirke series of crime novels -- four of them to date, themselves frequent award contenders -- under the pseudonym Benjamin Black.
I did have empathy for Quirke and his early life losses until the big reveal when I questioned the evidence of his depth of character and his heart.
The author does create vivid scenes with the use of descriptive prose. I enjoyed the glimpse into the 1950's Dublin.
But overall, I felt a lack of depth to the characters, the story, and the locations.
I do have the second book in the Quirke series which I will read in hopes of finding the depth and dimension I found missing in this book.
This writing talent presented as that of "Benjamin Black" belongs in fact to John Banville, a Booker Prize winning author (2005, THE SEA). CHRISTINE FALLS debuts a new branch of his work, a series featuring the pathologist Quirke. Categorized by the publisher as a "psychological novel," it is also called a "new kind of crime novel" and a "suspense novel." In my mind, it also belongs to historical realism, even the emotions of the characters, reminiscent of late 1940s films like THE SNAKE PIT and JOHNNY BELINDA, which commented on shortcomings in institutions without being documentary. Analyses aside, the novel is enjoyable for its well-drawn characters, so deeply motivated by personal circumstances to make a transition from poverty stricken Ireland to a bright and promising United States. It was not as easy as one might think.