Christine Falls – Book Review

christinefalls It was not the dead that seemed to Quirke uncanny but the living. When he walked into the morgue long after midnight and saw Malachy Griffin there he felt a shiver along his spine that was to prove prophetic, a tremor of troubles to come. – from Christine Falls, page 7 –

Quirke, a Dublin pathologist who drinks more than he should after the death of his wife two decades earlier, finds his brother-in-law tampering with a file in the morgue. The file belongs to a young woman named Christine Falls who lies dead in the next room. Unable to shake the unsettling feeling that his brother-in-law and nemesis Mal is hiding something sinister, Quirke begins a search for the answer behind Christine’s death. What unfolds is a novel of dark secrets which is tautly written and full of suspense.

Christine Falls is set first in 1950s Ireland, but ends in Boston. Quirke is a compelling protagonist, although not one who is immediately likable. He drinks excessively, pursues his sister-in-law romantically, and seems to have made more than a few enemies over the years. Despite his faults, however, Quirke is a man who wants to right the wrongs and he continues to investigate the death of Christine even when it becomes apparent his own life may be in danger.

Benjamin Black is the pen name for John Banville whose literary novels have won numerous awards. In this noir thriller, Banville weaves a tight story of intrigue that had me turning the pages long after I should have been in bed asleep. Christine Falls is a mystery which could easily fit in the literary genre with its strong character development and haunting descriptions. This whodunit has another, deeper layer – that of family secrets which span decades and implicate the Catholic Church. As Banville weaves his story, the reader is steadily drawn into the characters’ relationships.

Readers who enjoy literary fiction as well as a gripping mystery, will be drawn to Christine Falls. I expected to like this novel, and I was not disappointed.

Highly Recommended.


Christine Falls was a finalist for the 2008 Edgar Award, a New York Times Editor’s Choice, listed in The Village Voice‘s Top 20 Books of 2007, a Seattle Times Best Crime Fiction of 2007, and a Finalist for the 2007 Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

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  1. Excellent review! I recently bought the sequel The Silver Swan and am looking forward to reading it. Isn’t John Banville a wonderfully versatile writer?

  2. I’ve got a copy of this book, but wasn’t a big fan of The Sea, so wasn’t that excited about reading it. Your review has intrigued me though. Have you read The Sea? If so, what did you think of it?

  3. Ooooh – this sounds good!!!

    • Diane on May 7, 2009 at 11:31

    I’ve had this one on my IPOD for a while; glad to see you enjoyed it.

    • Kathy on May 7, 2009 at 11:54

    That sounds fantastic! You’ve got me wanting to read this one.

    • Karen on May 7, 2009 at 12:30

    This one sounds really interesting but as I work with forensic pathologists in a mortuary it might be a little too close to home for me!

    • JoAnn on May 7, 2009 at 12:35

    I really liked this and The Silver Swan, too!
    Like Anna, I am in awe of Banville’s versatility.

  4. Sounds like this book is right up my alley! Thank you for the review!!

  5. I just picked up the audio version of this at the library – trouble was I tried listening to it in the car – and since that is usually short trips with attention sometimes focused elsewhere I wasn’t keeping up with the story. I need to bring it in the house where I can be “committed” to it! Great review though!

    • Staci on May 8, 2009 at 15:43

    Now this sounds like a book I would really enjoy. Thanks for the insightful review!!

    • Sarah on May 9, 2009 at 02:13

    I’m glad you enjoyed this, as it was one of my favourite reads last year. The Silver Swan is just as good, now I just hope Banville writes another!

    • Wendy on May 9, 2009 at 13:19

    Anna: This is my first Banville book – but I have heard great things about his writing. I also have The Silver Swan and am reading it now!

    Jackie: I have not read The Sea (yet)…but I will someday for the Complete Booker Challenge. I’ve heard mixed reviews of it.

    Suzi: I think you’d like this one!

    Diane: Will have to come back and let me know what you thought after you’ve read it.

    Kathy: Go for it!

    Karen: *laughs* I know what you mean – sometimes reading a book about your own profession is not exactly relaxing!

    JoAnn: I’m reading The Silver Swan right now – and so far am really liking it.

    Jenn: You’re welcome!

    Kristi: I have trouble listening to books (I tend to miss a lot when I do that)…

    Staci: You are very welcome – Hope you’ll like it too.

    Sarah: Good to know about The Silver Swan which I just started reading.

    • Anna on May 15, 2009 at 21:17

    I haven’t heard of this book or author, but I’m intrigued. Thanks for the review.

    • Wendy on May 21, 2009 at 08:32

    You’re welcome, Anna 🙂

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