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Vengeance: A Novel (Quirke) Hardcover – August 7, 2012

3.6 out of 5 stars 72 customer reviews
Book 5 of 6 in the Quirke Series

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Editorial Reviews


“Alluring... The Black books have been lovely and luminous... [They] remain enticing, sultry pleasures.” ―Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“[Vengeance's] tartly playful opening is a tour de force, and one typical of Mr. Black, who enjoys confounding readers' expectations…. Vengeance is filled with … enticing sentences, sentences that quietly beckon, promising one thing before flirtatiously turning back and ending unexpectedly. Indeed, language is at the heart of the entire series.” ―Judith Flanders, The Wall Street Journal

“Benjamin Black…has become a dab hand at certain flourishes of classic genre writing, from the thumbnail character sketch (like one of a rascal who is "charming, dangerous, darkly handsome and given to destructive gaiety") to the single startling image that turns the story on its head (like the vindictive final gesture of a suicidal man). Vengeance… is filled with these vivid daubs.” ―The New York Times Book Review

“Propulsive… [Vengeance] will keep you turning pages.” ―The Los Angeles Times

“Gorgeously composed crime novels.” ―Entertainment Weekly

“Even the violence in [Black's] fifth novel, Vengeance, is fun to read… An enjoyable carnival ride.” ―The New York Review of Books

“Readers with a literary bent who prefer stylish prose and fully-realized characters are in the right hands with Black… Throughout [Vengeance], Black's prose is vividly rendered, almost painterly in its detail.” ―The Boston Globe

“There are very few writers who can write elegantly about murder, but there is no question that Benjamin Black is one of them… Quirke is fascinating as the dominant character, a man who remembers too many old, unhappy things and regrets too much, especially an inclination to repeat his mistakes… Readers who embark on the voyage of unraveling this mystery and others it sets in motion will not be disappointed.” ―The Washington Times

“[Vengeance] focuses on the charismatic, disheveled Quirke, a pathologist and part-time sleuth who solves murders in and around Dublin.... Delahaye's death won't be the last bit of trouble visited upon those in his orbit, but Quirke, dogged if occasionally quite drunk, isn't one to worry when the bodies start dropping.” ―The San Francisco Chronicle

“There is no definitive solution to the confusion of the heart and soul, particularly in a culture of repressed desire, guilt and hypocrisy, liberally sprinkled with the holy water of alcohol. Like a Beckett character, Quirke is trapped. The mystery of these stylish Black novels is how his hero will escape his fate.” ―The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“[Black] displays a melancholy poet's touch in Vengeance… The sleuthing here centers on a suicide at sea and a later death, but the absorbed and absorbing Quirke, ‘a great man for a drink,' is as much concerned with the mystery of his own and others' existence as he is with solving the crime.” ―The Wall Street Journal

“As you'd expect from Booker Prize-winning novelist John Banville (here "hiding" as Black), the writing is gorgeous and sleek, 1950s Dublin is richly evoked, and Quirke is captivating -- by turns dour and charming, and with an air about him that is catnip to women.” ―Seattle Times

“[John Banville's] mysteries are a fun but still toothy diversion.” ―New York Post

“An exciting read…With Vengeance, Benjamin Black (aka John Banville) offers an elegant fifth companion to the now renowned Quirke mysteries…Set in 1950s Ireland, the novel possesses all the ingredients of a classic American retro-noir.” ―San Francisco / Sacramento Book Review

“If you haven't yet discovered Benjamin Black (a.k.a. John Banville) and his marvelous creation, Dr. Quirke, then you are missing some first-rate writing and entertainment…Quirke is … an irresistible and believable character.” ―The Daily News

“Some incautious people may pick up Vengeance for a beach read, but don't you do it! You must savor the writing. There are no idle moments. Best to hold this one until the summer ends, until you are back at your fireside, the world outside in a slumber lulled by a distant sea, a dollop of Jameson in your glass.” ―The Washington Independent Review of Books

“John Banville, when he's not winning the Man Booker Prize and other literary hosannas, has become one of the world's great mystery men. You might know him better in that vein by his pen name -- Benjamin Black…. Black is to mysteries what Guinness is to beer -- rich, complex, satisfying… [Vengeance is] a delicious read.” ―WBUR (Boston's NPR News Station)

“Sly, engaging… The stylish mystery of Vengeance unravels in an Ireland where the Catholic Church and its traditions hold a firm grip. Black introduces us to a fascinating, finely drawn group of suspects.” ―Shelf Awareness

“A provocative whydunit…Superior prose…and subtle mystery ensure another winner for Black.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Tautly paced… [Black's] new book is the best to date. Detective Inspector Hackett is back, his Irish country charm belying his keen mind, along with Quirke, a broody pathologist who always manages to fall off the wagon and bed a prime suspect.” ―Library Journal

“Black is in superbly crafty form…[He] keeps the plot sleek as his gleaming prose sails across the page as swiftly as the yachts owned by the wealthy victims in his latest tale of mannerly murder among the Irish elite… A seductively moody and shrewdly damning tale of privilege, arrogance, vengeance, and a touch of madness.” ―Booklist

“Black is in fine fettle, as usual; his prose harkens back to an earlier time, when the English language was to be savored. He develops a plot with the best of them, and his characters are finely drawn and challenging.” ―Bookpage

“Quirke remains a compelling mystery, perhaps to himself most of all… Along the way, there's the pleasure of Black's prose.” ―Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Benjamin Black is the pen name of the Man Booker Prize-winning novelist John Banville. The author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed series of Quirke novels―Christine Falls, The Silver Swan, Elegy for April, and A Death in Summer―he lives in Dublin.


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Product Details

  • Series: Quirke (Book 5)
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition edition (August 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805094393
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805094398
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,157,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sid Nuncius TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book, although I do have my reservations about it. Set in Ireland in the 1950s, pathologist Quirke investigates two deaths in two families who together own and run a large business. This is the fifth in the Quirke series and it helps to have read some of the earlier ones although it isn't essential.

The plot, frankly, is slight and predictable and anyone familiar with crime fiction will spot most of what is coming from an early stage. Although not as floridly literary as when he is writing under his own name, Banville's underlying interests are the same: insights into how character works and rich evocation of time, place and the internal lives of his characters. He succeeds well with all of that here; my reservations are mainly that I didn't feel that this was quite enough to carry the book with so little interesting plot. Personally, I don't find Quirke a terribly interesting character so having his thoughts and behaviour as the central theme of the book didn't really work for me, and Inspector Hackett, who I found a wonderful creation in the previous book, scarcely gets a look-in here. However, there is enough in other characters to hold the interest and I found I wanted to see how things turned out.

I suspect that readers looking for a good crime thriller will be a bit disappointed, but fans of Banville will love this. It's not a gripping read, but recommended nonetheless as a thoughtful and contemplative one with a good deal of interest.
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Format: Hardcover
In this fifth novel of the Dublin-based series involving Dr. Quirke, author Benjamin Black, the pen name of Booker Prize-winner John Banville, continues all the main characters from previous novels, spending little time rehashing the sometimes sordid history of their relationships. Instead, he picks up where he left off with A Death in Summer, set in the 1950s. Quirke, a Dublin physician, is still running the hospital's pathology lab, and he has finally resolved an old wound by reuniting with his wary daughter Phoebe Griffin. Brought up as the child of Quirke's stepbrother Malachy and never informed until recently of her real parentage, Phoebe is somewhat leery of Quirke, not really knowing how to treat him or what he expects. Quirke, a long-time friend of Police Detective Inspector Hackett, is still available for private consultations with him, especially when the real reasons for a death may be in dispute.

Both Hackett and Quirke become involved with an investigation at the beginning of this novel when Victor Delahaye, the main partner in an old company with a flourishing automobile repair business, invites the young son of his partner Jack Clancy to accompany him on a sail. Young Davy Clancy hates sailing, and has no idea why Jack makes such an issue of having him as the only passenger. When he and Delahaye are far from land, Delahaye pulls out a gun and kills himself. Quirke, upon examining the body, accompanies Inspector Hackett when he interviews the not-so-bereaved family. The remainder of the novel involves the search to discover why Victor Delahaye committed suicide, a problem which becomes far more complicated when yet another death occurs at sea, this one far more mysterious.
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Format: Hardcover
Dublin pathologist Garrett Quirke's investigations in the dreary 1950s bring him, an orphan, into many situations where families hide secrets of paternity, maternity, loyalty, and betrayal. John Banville's alter ego Benjamin Black shares Banville's acclaimed command of atmosphere from his erudite, dense, and intellectual novels; this fifth installment of "Quirke Mysteries" moves into similarly complex motivations. Yet their focus upon a repressed and dingy Irish city under the grip of economic malaise, political corruption, and ecclesiastical dominance enables Black to craft a explore Quirke's evolution as a flawed character, battling drink and searching for solutions to the lives of others if not his own, which unravels even as he carries on, like all the living.

Not trained as a detective, Quirke relies on Inspector Hackett, the typical up-from-the-country recruit to the police turned supervisor of hapless trainees. The two meet and reckon with the deaths that come their way. This time, in "Vengeance," business tycoon Victor Delahaye, from the Protestant gentry, shoots himself while sailing with his Catholic (on paper equal but in reality subordinate) partner Jack Clancy's son, Davy. Quirke handles Victor's corpse, and probes into why he came to such an end.

"I have a great curiosity," Quirke explains to an uneasy wife. "If I were a cat, I'd have been dead long ago." His travels keep him mainly in Dublin, but a journey shows him the rest of a rundown Ireland: "The huge sky over the Midlands was piled high with luminous wreckage." Even nature looks grim.

Quirke and Hackett's half-driven, half-detached forays, along with interludes by Quirke's daughter, Phoebe, propel much of the plot.
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Vengeance is the fifth of the six novels featuring the Dublin pathologist Quirke (no first name) from the pen of Benjamin Black, aka Man Booker Prize-winner John Banville. Banville reportedly writes the series for money, seeing them as of a lower order than the dozens of “serious” novels and plays he has created. Clearly, the critics agree with him, having awarded Banville a mind-bogglingly long series of awards and prizes. However, this quick and dirty distinction between genre fiction and the more “serious” stuff has me wondering how many people have actually read all those award-winning books, and whether the half-dozen novels in the Quirke series have attracted a wider audience than all the rest of Banville’s work combined. I, for one, wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case.

Truth to tell, I’ve never been able to read all the way through a single Booker Prize-winning novel. I’m convinced that the judges deliberately seek out work that’s designed to be read by critics, academic deconstructionists, and nobody else. But I digress.

In the Quirke novels, set in 1950s Dublin, Banville comes to grip with the Irish elite, the underlying tension between Catholic and Protestant, the dead weight of the Church, and the veil of history. Quirke and his collaborator, Inspector Hackett of the Garda (the Irish police), invariably find themselves caught up in the often violent conflicts roiling Dublin’s elite society. In Vengeance, two families are locked in combat for three generations, one Protestant, one Catholic, as partners in one of the country’s biggest businesses. The mysterious death at sea of one of the partners triggers an investigation by Quirke and Hackett that leads them to uncover long-hidden family secrets.
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