First Chapter First Paragraph: Christine Falls by Benjamin Black

Every Tuesday First Chapter, First Paragraph/Intros is hosted by Vicky of I’d Rather Be at the Beach sharing the first paragraph or two of a book she’s reading or plans to read soon.

Christine Falls

This week I’m featuring Christine Falls by Benjamin Black. Although I’m in the middle of other books right now I like to think about what to read next, often changing my mind before settling down to read the next one. Browsing my bookshelves recently (physical not virtual) this book caught my eye. I think I’ll read it soon.

She was glad it was the evening mailboat she was taking for she did not think she could have faced a morning departure. At the party the night before one of the medical students had found a flask of raw alcohol and mixed it with orange crush and she had drunk two glasses of it, and the inside of her mouth was still raw and there was something like a drum beating behind her forehead. She had stayed in bed all morning, still tipsy, unable to sleep and crying half the time, a hankie crushed to her mouth to stifle the sobs. She was frightened at the thought of what she had to do today, of what she had to undertake. Yes, she was frightened.

Blurb 

Quirke’s pathology department, set deep beneath the city, is his own gloomy realm: always quiet, always night, and always under his control. Until late one evening after a party he stumbles across a body that should not be there – and his brother-in-law falsifying the corpse’s cause of death.

This is the first time Quirke has encountered Christine Falls, but the investigation he decides to lead into the way she lived and died uncovers a dark secret at the heart of Dublin’s high Catholic network; one with the power to shake his own family and everything he holds dear.

~~~

Benjamin Black is a pseudonym used by John Banville (an author whose books I’ve enjoyed before). This is the first of his Quirke Mysteries. They are set in Ireland in the 1950s. I’ve read the fifth book, Vengeance, which I enjoyed, so when I saw this in a bookshop I bought it.

If you’ve read it I’d love to know what you thought of it. If you haven’t, does it tempt you too?

Vengeance by Benjamin Black

The first book I’ve finished this year (I began reading it at the end of last year) is a library book, Vengeance by Benjamin Black. I still have a few library books on loan from last year and I’ll be slotting in them between reading my own unread books.

Vengeance is an interesting book, ostensibly crime fiction, because there are two deaths investigated by Detective Inspector Hackett and his friend, pathologist Doctor Quirke, but it’s more of a character study, with Hackett playing a minor role. It has a slow, steady pace throughout and the mystery is not complex or difficult to solve.

As often happens when I borrow books from the library I have read a book that is one of a series of books – Vengeance is number five in Black’s Quirke Mysteries series (there are currently 6 books in the series). I think it stands well on its own, with enough back story included to keep me happy.

Benjamin Black is a pseudonym used by John Banville (an author whose books I’ve enjoyed before). His Quirke Mysteries are set in Ireland in the 1950s. Vengeance begins with a suicide – Victor Delahaye, a business man who takes his boat out to sea and shoots himself. He had taken his partner’s son, Davy Clancy out to sea with him. The Delahayes and Clancys are interviewed – Mona Delahaye, the dead man’s young and very beautiful wife; James and Jonas Delahaye, his identical twin sons; Marguerite his sister; Jack Clancy, his ambitious, womanizing partner and Sylvia, Jack’s long-suffering wife.

Then there is a second death. Why did Victor kill himself and who is the murderer, wreaking vengeance on the families?

I liked Black’s style of writing – clear and concise, the characters are distinct and the setting is excellent, both in location and time, with the characters wreathed in cigarette smoke, and having to find public telephones for example. At one point a journalist comments on detective stories, comparing them to ‘real life’ investigations:

‘I wanted to be Sherlock Holmes and Poirot and Lord Peter Wimsey all rolled into one. I knew I could be. I knew I’d get all the clues and work out who had done it and at the end would get to point my finger at the culprit …

And then I grew up.’ … ‘ Everything doesn’t get explained,’ he said. … ‘You find a few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, some of them fit together, some of them you just leave lying on the board, by themselves. That was the point of those detective stories I used to read – there was nothing that didn’t mean something, nothing that wasn’t a clue. It’s not like that in real life,’ (pages 213 -214)

A nice touch, I thought.

I liked this book enough to make me want to read the earlier books in the series:

  1. Christine Falls (2006)
  2. The Silver Swan (2007)
  3. Elegy for April (2010)
  4. A Death in Summer (2011)
  5. Vengeance (2012)
  6. Holy Orders (2013)