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Christine Falls

by Benjamin Black (aka John Banville)

      Garret Quirke is an exciting new character who will probably appear in future novels by this Booker Prize winning author. Quirke is a product of Irish Catholic orphanages, and a widower of 20 years. He was raised by a prominent judge, and was in competition with the judge's son, Malachy, for the judge's affection. Malachy is also his brother-in-law, but complicated family relationships don't end there. Quirke has always been in love with Malachy's wife, Sarah...his own wife's sister.

The story takes place in Ireland and Boston in the 1950s. Quirke is a pathologist who works in the Dublin city morgue, and when he catches Malachy, who is a prominent physician, altering the death certificate of a young woman who died in childbirth, he questions Malachy's involvement in the case. As Quirke tries to find out who the young woman, Christine Falls, was and what happened to her baby, he uncovers some well guarded secrets of Dublin's Catholic high society and some about his own family members. When violence erupts in warning against Quirke's investigation, and leaves him critically injured and crippled, it makes him more determined than ever to find the answers.

He uncovers sin in many shapes within Dublin society, the medical profession, the church, and its influence and association with the Knights of St. Patrick, and American charities and the power overseeing orphanages and convents. These secrets may be better off hidden, along with the personal tragedies of young women of ill repute and their babies.

Benjamin Black's complex debut novel under this pen name is expertly paced, revealing surprising and disturbing clues sparingly throughout the book, and coming to a satisfying climax. The language is a pleasure to read, reminiscent of an earlier era. The story is very entertaining and hard to put down. Black/Banville is an author I have somehow missed reading, but I will certainly remedy that now that I have discovered his work.

The Book

Henry Holt
March 2007
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The Reviewer

Beverly J. Rowe
Reviewed 2007
© 2006