Christine Falls, Benjamin Black, Henry Holt and Company, 2006, 340 pp
In his first mystery, Benjamin Black (pen name for literary author John Banville) introduces Quirke, a pathologist in 1950s Dublin who falls into a mysterious circumstance and unwittingly becomes an amateur investigator. Quirke is an orphan, a heavy drinker, a loner. The weather is gray and rainy. His adoptive family has dirty secrets, involving pregnant women, babies, paternity and the Catholic Church. It is all very Irish, dark and hopeless.
I love dark and hopeless Irish stories but I didn't love this one. I may change my mind later but I felt that Banville/Black went slumming and his literary habits are too strong for him to really tear it up in crime fiction. Of course, I am at this point just being opinionated because I have never read a John Banville novel. He is lauded, wins prizes; readers I respect heap him with praise. Graham Greene successfully alternated between what he called serious fiction and "entertainments" and was brilliant in both. Banville/Black has not convinced me. He is no Graham Greene.
Now that I have that out of the way, I can say that I read Christine Falls quickly, was engaged on every page and found the twists and turns surprising and gripping. I even had a soft spot for Quirke by the end. I suppose I should read at least one of his John Banville novels. If you have, please let me know.
(Christine Falls is available in paperback on the mystery shelves at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)