This is mystery writing at its most literary. Rich and profound, poetically written, haunting, moving.
But it’s suspenseful too, with a carefully devised mystery plot.
Christine Falls is set in 1950s Dublin, with Quirke (no first name), a shuffling, gloomy, soulful pathologist as the detective. A young woman, Christine Falls, has been found dead and Quirke suspects his brother-in-law of tampering with the corpse in some way. Pursuing this leads Quirke to uncover dark secrets and conspiracies among Dublin’s high society and the Catholic church.
It’s powerful stuff. Stakes are high. Emotions run deep.
Settings are exquisitely drawn.
“Drifts of soundless summer rain were greying the trees in Merrion Square…. Among the clustered chimneys a few were dribbling smoke.”
Yes, the writing is elegant. I was going to say effortlessly elegant, because that’s the way it seems, but really, something as lovely as this must involve a lot of crafting. Benjamin Black is a pseudonym for John Banville, Irish literary superstar and winner of the Man Booker Prize.
Sometimes I think Mr Black has forgotten he is writing a thriller. He often becomes poetic. He doesn’t seem to be able to help it.
“The snow outside was falling fast now, he fancied he could hear the huge, busy whisper of it as it swamped the air and settled on the already blanketed lawn and on the invisible terraces and stone steps and gravelled walkways. He thought of the sea out there beyond the garden, the waves a dark, muddy mauve, swallowing the endless fallings of frail flakes.”
If this is your thing (and it is definitely mine), then there is none better.