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Showing 1-10 of 56 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 74 reviews
on November 24, 2014
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.

The Quirke series is successful, I believe, precisely because it lacks the conceits and conventions of so much detective fiction: the cliff-hanging ends of chapters, the unlikely coincidences, the rosters of likely suspects, the red herrings. Each novel tells a unique story, and each is firmly grounded in its characters and in the history of a particular time and place. If, like me, you enjoy detective fiction but are uncomfortable feeling manipulated, you’ll enjoy Vengeance and the other five novels (so far) in the series.
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on April 4, 2016
My fifth Quirke novel and I was hoping for an improvement over the last one, A Death In Summer. I did not get the improvement I wanted - more character depth, more plot sophistication, more writing complexity.
Black writes very well with engaging words and colorful visual pictures. But much is missing with his words.
All the established Quirke characters appear in the book but none get more than a cursory reference to their inner world. Mona could have such dimension to her but all we know is she cheats on her husband and is from South Africa. And, once again, the plot lacks sophistication and diversity. Black pulls the reader along like a child in a wagon, sitting passively while traveling slowly from point A to point B until the mystery is solved.
From the first there are only four possible perpetrators but none are really explored. They are lackluster with no excitement in the final resolution.
When I started the Quirke series, I was intrigued and excited by the potential of the Quirke character but he has proven to have little intrigue or interest. The reader knows he likes alcohol too much, cigarettes in abundance and questions his choice in women and only rarely spends any time at his job as a pathologist.
Perhaps all I have noted is exactly how Black intended the Quirke series to be. If so, I should just not bother with the sixth Quirke novel I have waiting on the shelf because I am once again disappointed. But I wonder, how much of a masochist am I?
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on September 29, 2013
In this fifth installment of Black's Quirke Series, he ties up some loose ends which are still hanging all the way back to "Christine Falls" his first Quirke Novel. Quirke still has an outstanding connection to the family that beat him up, broke his leg and knee and raped his daughter, Phoebe. This connection goes through the original family that was running the illegal baby exportation ring in Ireland which brought Quirke to America. There he met the Crawfords who ran the Irish ring and the wife of Old Man Crawford, Rose, who in her own way took a liking to Quirke and actually seduced him. But over the time of the last 3 novels, Rose had ultimately landed right in Dublin as the new wife to Dr. Quirke's 'brother' Malachy Griffin, the son of Judge Griffin, his adoptive family in Ireland. They took Quirke out of the orphanage and raised him as brother to their own son, Malachy. Malachy's 1st wife and Quirke's late wife were sisters and both Crawford girls. Thus, these ties still lingered, and the last of the Crawfords, Rose had married Quirke's adoptive brother, Malachy, thereby binding the remaining American remnants of the family with the Irish originals, all right in Dublin.

In this book, Black continues to develop his style and hone his well known bent for literature into a new medium, the detective novel. Black continues to fulfill readers search for a detective novelist who also has high and recognized literary expertise. While Black is still fond of ending the occasional sentence with a preposition (most often "of" as in "things he was afraid of") but has not sacrificed much of his expertise for proper and unique high level writing in a new format that he can write quickly and contribute to his personal interest in developing and penning his own detective series. Black turns out to be a secret lover and admirer of the genre, and the genre is certainly an admirer of his literary talent. While it is true that he still has a good ways to go before he finds perfection or as close thereto as he wishes to go, he certainly is lending his talent to this oft abused and discriminated against genre. All too many detective novelists are not much worried about form and format, and are much more interested in making some quick money from a fairly broad market for mass market paperbacks. Fortunately, the genre finds redemption is such authors as Black, Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and quite a few other great writers and thinkers of the past in the genre.

The genre seems to truly have a perpetual hold on a segment of the public. The detective novel genre is a place where the plots imitate the crimes of the real world, but where the facts are contained and resolved usually fully, by the author over time. In this way, the detective novel varies from real life, which does not resolve so perfectly and often leaves those hurt, abused or robbed without any retribution or fulfillment of Vengeance for the crimes committed against them. Such is the American and English Legal system and such is the real world of criminal behavior. However, the crime novelist can bend the reality of the world to a more satisfying resolution when he writes his own version of the genre. And, those many readers who like the resolution afforded them by the genre turn often to the masters for the provision of that fulfillment with panache and aplomb, as well as, literary talent that is so rare in the detective novel genre.

Lovers of the genre can thank Benjamin Black for another great contribution to the genre and enjoy this 5th Quirke novel as part of the still growing body of work that Black has bestowed upon us in the last 5 or 6 years. We wish him well and anticipate a grand and glorious future for us to read and collect as he goes forward with this new foray which complement his pure literature that he has created so wonderfully in the years up to now. The book, while perhaps not his very best, is still a 4 star production worth the attention of serious detective genre novels and literarily particular readers of same. This novel does not let us down and we look forward to reading his recently published 6th Quirked book and those after that one. The book is highly recommended for lovers of the detective genre of all ages.
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on October 14, 2013
The Quirke mysteries are in my rotation so I'll read them all as they are published. Regulars will know that Benjamin Black is the pen name of Irish author John Banville. Without question Mr. Banville is the most "literate" author writing mysteries today so he may not be for everyone. It is more evident in his non-mysteries than the Quirke books, but Mr. Banville will write sentences and paragraphs that will leave you in awe. The good news is that he writes awesome sentences. The bad news is that he can come across as somewhat pedantic. So if you crave "action" his style may not be a good fit.

Dr. Quirke is an Irish pathologist. He spends more time drinking than working at his real job, and when he's not drinking he's helping his detective pal investigate things; and sometimes both at the same time. In this one a Dublin businessman commits suicide on his boat, which seems like a straightforward non-crime but to Quirke something doesn't feel right. And of course it isn't. So the non-crime leads to real crimes, which allow Quirke to stay away from the "office." He obviously prefers investigating to slicing and dicing so this is a blessing. Several fairly interesting family members of the deceased, along with some from his business partners family, lend intrigue to the ensuing investigation that for me fully satisfies. As usual, Quirke sorts it all out while continuing to entertain us with his relationships with Jameson's Irish Whiskey, his daughter Abby and various women (he's back with Isabel- sort of). In that order. Summation: For me a good read and a nice change of pace. I find Quirke to be an interesting guy, someone you root for to find some semblance of happiness in life. A guy you'd like to have dinner with over a Jameson's neat.
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on December 14, 2012
I am really not finished with Vengenace, Benjamin Black's newest book. I do not wish to be unfair to Black's writing, but here goes anyway. I wanted to try a Benjammin Black book after I had just finished John Banville's latest book. For beauty of language, intricate story telling, keep with Banville. For an easy read, very easy, on the beach, in the sun, read Vengeance. Be sure to take other books with you to read when you finish Vengeance.
Oh yes, when reading Banville, you might need a dictionary to look up some words--when I reread the book, I will surely have a dictionary by my side. So sorry that this review is not special for the book. NanS
12/20/2012
Having written a not very happy review, (above), I felt impelled to finish the book to see if I would change my mind about Vengeance. I completed the reading yesterday and DEFINITELY will not change my mind about Vengeance--maybe I should lower the number of stars? This Benj Black book is so simple compared to the beauty and complexity of Jaohn Banville's work. I just had a cynical thought: Is writing such as exists in Vengeance the way Banville/Black makes money?
Perhaps this book can be, will be made into a movie, using excellent actors who can make the words and situations in the book come alive???? NAnS
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on August 10, 2017
Just finished the audio book. The reader was fantastic and the book mysterious and very entertaining.
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on March 2, 2015
It's not absolutely necessary, but a great help to read all the "Quirke" books in order. Quirke is a deeply interesting character. You will learn a little more about him as the books progress. The surrounding characters also have interesting back stories which develop as the books progress.
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on September 21, 2012
I fell in love with Quirke and Phoebe in Christine Falls and Elegy for April...this book was so very disappointing. The story line was thinly veiled, obviously solved and with little or no substance I came to expect from Mr. Black. Evidently the book was some 309 pages or thereabouts. I read it on my Kindle Fire and it breezed by so quickly, I felt so gipped for the price. I will not pre-order Quirke again. The struggles in his mind and booze so well presented in earlier novels were never really fleshed out further...Inspector Hackett seemed to be an afterthought...
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on October 9, 2012
I enjoy these Benjamin Black books, I have read a couple now. The books are quite slow moving and the stories interesting but not enthralling. Dr. Quirke is personally a disaster. Does he have to fall into bed with every 'beautiful but dangerous' woman he meets! But being an Irish woman of a certain age, I know this Dublin. Quirke seems to inhabit a dark, smokey, black and white world. In my imagination everywhere he goes there is fog, and darkness, and smoke, never colour. I read these books for the atmosphere they create not really for the stories or the characters who are all pretty one dimensional. I flew through this book and enjoyed every minute, and the ending was not quite what I expected. I'm really looking foward to the forth coming TV series with Gabriel Byrne playing Dr. Quirke, perfect choice I think.
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on September 3, 2013
The strengths of this who-done-it are the characters and the place. Black does a fine job of developing some interesting characters. Quirke a pathologist friend of detective is particularly interesting. Asked if he is an alcoholic, Quirke says, I don't know, then he downs a glass of whisky and says probably. We know he is but we forgive him because he is interesting in that he sees the world in a cold yet loving way.

A few of the other characters in this Irish novel also involve us. Vengeance is a story worth reading because the characters are worth knowing.
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