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Christine Falls by Benjamin Black

Christine Falls

by Benjamin Black

Series: Quirke (1)

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1,664984,341 (3.47)276
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Its unbelievable that this book has been nominated for an Edgar award!
Christine Falls, written by John Banville using the name Benjamin Black, is a mystery set in Ireland and also in eastern U.S.
Pathologist Quirke stumbles upon his brother-in-law falsifying the file of one Christine Falls. This sets in motion Quirke’s investigation of who Christine was, how she ended up in the morgue, and what happened to the child she was carrying at the time of her death.
Sure Black uses lots of fancy metaphors in an attempt to create an atmospheric story, but they become redundant and downright irritating. Both Quirke and one of the nuns have problems walking, but couldn’t Black have thought of more than one way to describe their plights? Examples:
Pg. 96: “…dragging her hip after her like a mother dragging a stubborn child.”
Pg. 213: “He shifted uneasily, his huge leg tugging at him like a surly, intractable child."
Pg. 275: “...swinging himself forward on his stick he yanked himself from the room, like an angry parent dragging away a stubbornly recalcitrant child.”
The men can’t keep their penises in their pants. Women throw themselves at Quirke (Why?? He isn’t portrayed as all that attractive.), the most laughable being a nurse who comes out of nowhere in the hospital after Quirke is beaten up, and jumps him. The women characters are for the most part portrayed as “damaged”, fragile, and weak.
  BooksOn23rd | Nov 25, 2015 |
Not sure what to say. Good enough to keep the pages turning, but strangely dissatisfying at the end. Good enough, I guess, that I might give the Quirke series another go at some time. ( )
  VashonJim | Sep 5, 2015 |
I liked it at first, probably because it's the characters are Irish and the plot chugs along toward an indictment of a particularly Irish crime--shipping babies of young unmarried women off to American to be adopted and raised to be nuns and priests. The novel was ultimately ruined for me, though, by the gazey maleness, the icky wish fullfillment, the middle-aged white guyness. It's just so tedious how they position themselves in book after book.

In the plus column, he pulls off a pov that shifts between characters very nicely, sometimes darting rapidly between perspectives and sometimes settling in for long stays.

I wonder if I would like John Banville, the serious writer version...I bet not. He couldn't see things THAT differently writing under a different name. ( )
  wordlikeabell | May 24, 2015 |
Well, I wanted to like this book. It has a lovely, vibrant setting, an intriguing mystery and a sufficiently interesting protagonist in the pathologist Quirke. I'm not sure why, but for some reason I could not make my mind focus on the plot. Countless times throughout the book, sentences would begin with a character's name and I would wonder, "Who's that? Have I read about them before? Where do they fit in the action?" It left me feeling lost, perplexed and somewhat anxious, like how you feel during a test you've forgotten to study for. That might be my fault, but after awhile you begin to wonder why you aren't riveted to the action. For me, the writing was too plodding. The characters seemed distant and I had a hard time empathizing with them. Overall, I was left with a vague positive sense about this book. I wanted to hear more about Quirke and Phoebe, but the other characters all blurred together into an interchangeable mass. Will read another book in the series before giving up entirely. ( )
  Juva | Apr 3, 2015 |
CHRISTINE FALLS is the first novel of a series set in 1950’s Dublin and having at its centre the Griffin family who are part of the Catholic aristocracy. Quirke (if he has a first name I missed it entirely) is the foster son of the family, a pathologist and a drunk. When he notices his foster-brother Malachy – also a doctor – fiddling with a file he has no need to be fiddling with, Quirke becomes determined to find out what lay behind Mal’s fiddling with the file of someone called Christine Falls. This leads Quirke to endure his family’s wrath, a couple of beatings-up and a trip to America. At the same time as all this getting drunk and beaten up is going on we meet a young Boston couple who have adopted a baby called Christine.

CHRISTINE FALLS fits into what I call the middle-aged-male-wish-fulfilment genre of novel in which no matter how unattractive he is physically and/or psychologically the ‘hero’ of the story will manage to hang on to his job despite hitherto unparalleled levels of drunken incompetence and have all manner of impossibly gorgeous women tripping over themselves to bed him. Here an attractive nurse literally jumps on Quirke despite him having been beaten to a pulp and still being covered in bruises and bandages. I’m sorry but my eyes rolled. It’s this type of nonsense which stops me reading more noir.

Although in the end it offered a satisfactory, if bleak, resolution I wasn’t exactly bowled over by the plot either though I suspect if you read less crime fiction than I do you might have been less annoyed. I didn’t really get a genuine surprise in the lot but can acknowledge I’m not the average reader when it comes to this stuff.

The other thing I suppose one can’t do when discussing a writer of Black/Banville’s stature is fail to mention the writing itself but even there I’m afraid I wasn’t won over. Some of it – particularly the early scenes depicting Claire and Andy who are the adoptive parents of baby Christine – is rather beautiful but there is a lot of repeated imagery. I lost count, for example, of the number of times people are described as being like a stubborn/surly/recalcitrant child. And towards the end of the novel there’s a rape scene that just made me squirm. I can’t quote the passage now as the book’s gone back to the library but at the crucial moment we’re drawn to the image of dark and powerful waves crashing on nearby rocks. As if rape is as natural as ocean tides? Ick.

So…the book is not for me. I’m probably in the minority (again) but I found the characterisations too stereotypical, the gender politics bloody depressing and the plot easily predictable. As always though other opinions are available
  bsquaredinoz | Jan 2, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 90 (next | show all)
In his decision to write a straightforward, no-nonsense thriller about transatlantic baby-smuggling and the Catholic Church, John Banville, a veritable emperor of baroque prose, has not so much taken a vow of poverty as put in a sly bid to extend and reinforce his stylistic dominion. ... Those familiar with Banville will have expected nothing less; the neophyte, however, who picks up this racy little number anticipating nothing more than a night of brisk casual thrills may soon be surprised to find himself in the grips of a literary passion he had not gambled on.
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Benjamin Black, pseud. used by John Banville.
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It's not the dead that seem strange to Quirke. It's the living. One night, after a few drinks at an office party, Quirke shuffles down into the morgue where he works and finds his brother-in-law, Malachy, altering a file he has no business even reading. Odd enough in itself to find Malachy there, but the next morning, when the haze has lifted, it looks an awful lot like his brother-in-law, the esteemed doctor, was in fact tampering with a corpse - and concealing the cause of death. It turns out the body belonged to a young woman named Christine Falls. And as Quirke reluctantly presses on toward the true facts behind her death, he comes up against some insidious, and very well-guarded, secrets of Dublin's high Catholic society, among them members of his own family.… (more)

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