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.
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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