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Christine Falls by Benjamin Black

Christine Falls

by Benjamin Black

Series: Quirke (1)

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Benjamin Black is a nom be plume for John Banville, an Irish novelist. His literary novels have won awards, including the Booker Prize in 2005 for The Sea.
This is very well written and quite enjoyable. The main story takes place in the 1950's. Quirk was an orphan who was rescued from the orphanage and raised in a well-to-do family, the Griffins, that is now at the center of a mystery. Quirk works as a pathologist in charge of the morgue in Dublin hospital, and one evening he finds Malachy Griffin his “brother” (although Quirk was not adopted), and his brother-in-law, they married sisters, who is a doctor at the hospital, altering the records of a recently deceased young woman. Quirke starts investigating to try to learn the real story of this woman's death and the reason why some people want it to stay hidden.
All of the characters are fully formed, with rich psychologies presented. They include Quirke and Mal, Sarah, who is Mal's wife, Phoebe, their daughter, and Griffin, their father.
This is the first of a series of books featuring Quirke. I will read the others. ( )
  BillPilgrim | Feb 10, 2014 |
Another 5-Star Red for Mystery Lovers: In Christine Falls, Quirke is a sad pathologist who lives in Dublin. An orphan and widower of twenty years, he survived a descent into alcoholism, yet always teeters close to another fall because of his fondness for whiskey. After a party celebrating a nurse's departure, he walks into the morgue and catches his brother-in-law revising Christine Fall's file. Later, troubled by a fog of drunken memories of seeing the young woman's body, Quirke tries to learn why people are concealing the truth about Christine's death.

Writing as Benjamin Black, author John Banville displays the talent that won him the Booker Prize for an earlier book. The descriptions of place and character are lean and elegant, and the details and minor characters all matter. With its complicated network of characters and careful recreation of Dublin and Boston society in the 1950s, Christine Falls is a novel that a reader can sip and savor much like Quirke does the whiskey in his glass.

Many of the characters are members of the Griffin clan, an influential Catholic family, and all inhabit the tangled web of their shared pasts, terrible secrets, and strands of bitterness and loyalty. Garrett Griffin, the patriarch and a respected judge, is the man whom Quirke best knows as his surrogate father. Malachy Griffin, the judge's son and Quirke's hostile brother-in-law, suspects that Quirke is in love with his wife Sarah, whose deceased sister was once Quirke's wife. A young niece, Phoebe, who seems to be infatuated with Quirke, completes the family circle.

An engaging feature of the novel is the way it sometimes allows us to know more than Quirke. At times, we almost can complete a section of the puzzle that Quirke is still struggling to understand, but then a final detail surfaces and that section clicks together for both Quirke and the reader. There are many disturbing and satisfying surprises in this story.

Christine Falls is a rewarding read for lovers of mystery fiction, a story in which the criminals are people we know well and, in different circumstances, might expect to trust and respect.

Armchair Interviews says: Do you know these characters in your own life?
  lonepalm | Feb 5, 2014 |
In the first novel featuring inquisitive pathologist Quirke, Benjamin Black (aka, John Banville) spins a dark and seedy tale of murder and mayhem, family secrets, cover up and deceit in 1950s Dublin and Boston. Late at night, after an office party, a booze-addled Quirke happens upon his step-brother Malachy Griffin (a physician) altering the file of a girl who recently had the misfortune to end up on the slab in his morgue. Not one to let odd events go unquestioned, Quirke starts digging into the death of the girl, Christine Falls, and uncovers a trail of corruption and treachery that stretches back decades and involves collusion among the Catholic Church, the elite of Dublin society, and members of his own family. The story is thoroughly engrossing, the characters indelibly drawn, and the writing fluent and atmospheric. Banville is one of the most accomplished literary artists working in English, but he is not slumming it in this mystery novel written under a pseudonym. His incredible talent is on stunning display on every page. Highly recommended for fans of detective fiction or anyone who likes an absorbing well-written mystery. ( )
  icolford | Jul 2, 2013 |
This book opens in 1950s Ireland, and a young nurse boarding a ship to go and work in the States is handed a baby to take with her. It's all a little fishy, and the remainder of the book is concerned with how the baby ended up in this situation, and her new life in the States.

Driving the story is pathologist Quirke who smells a rat early on and starts investigating, despite some powerful disincentives. He's a pretty classic dysfunctional detective, a widower and an alcoholic, with some very strange family relations. And he also has the classic compulsion to solve the mystery, regardless of the consequences.

It's very atmospheric, set in both Ireland and Boston, and beautifully written. I haven't read John Banville before (Benjamin Black is the name under which he writes the Quirke series), but I might have to try his literary works now too.

My only quibble would be that Quirke was not particularly attractive to me, yet seems to be irresistible to several of the women in the book. still, this is minor, and I will be back to see his future adventures (hopefully with fewer seductions). ( )
  wookiebender | Jun 1, 2013 |
I made the mistake of reading the second in the series--The Silver Swan, which gave away much of the mystery in this one. Therefore, I don't think I enjoyed it as much as I might have. Also, Benjamin Black is a pseudonym for John Banville (I've never read anything by him) who is an author of "literary fiction" and won the Booker Prize for The Sea. He seemed to be trying to meld the literary and the mystery, and that just didn't work for me. I did like the descriptions of Dublin in the 1950s, though. ( )
  sharwass | Apr 25, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 82 (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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She was glad it was the evening mailboat she was taking, for she did not think she could face a morning departure.
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Benjamin Black, pseud. used by John Banville.
Original title: Christine Falls
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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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