ELEGY FOR APRIL by Benjamin Black

Book Quote:

“Before he went on the latest drinking bout, when he was supposed not to be taking alcohol in any form, he used to take Phoebe to dinner here on Tuesday nights and share a bottle of wine with her, his only tipple of the week. Now, in trepidation, he was going to see if he could take a glass or two of claret again without wanting more. He tried to tell himself he was here solely in the spirit of research, but that fizzing sensation under his breastbone was all too familiar. He wanted a drink, and he was going to have one.”

Book Review:

Review by Lynn Harnett (MAY 19, 2010)

Black’s third 1950s Dublin thriller featuring pathologist Garret Quirke (after Christine Falls and The Silver Swan) finds Quirke in a rehab hospital, from which he will shortly spring himself, for his daughter’s sake.

“Quirke had never known life so lacking in savor. In his first days at St. John’s he had been in too much confusion and distress to notice how everything here seemed leached of colour and texture; gradually, however, the deadness pervading the place began to fascinate him. Nothing at St. John’s could be grasped or held.”

The fog does not dissipate all that much once he’s out, however. Quirke buys himself a fancy car, though he can’t drive – this injects some comic moments into an essentially dark tale – but it can’t quench his thirst for drink, which he fights and succumbs to throughout the story.

Quirke’s daughter Phoebe sets the plot in motion – her friend April Latimer, a junior doctor and very independent woman, is missing though no one will admit it. April’s prominent family has essentially washed their hands of her and most of her friends assume she’s gone off with some man. But Phoebe asks her father to investigate.

Quirke consults his friend Inspector Hackett, stirs up the hornet’s nest of April’s family, and questions April’s rather brittle circle of friends – devious journalist Jimmy, beguiling actress Isabel and exotic and polished Patrick Ojukwu, a handsome Nigerian student, suspected of sleeping with everyone, including April.

Black’s characters, even those who strive for type, like April’s snooty family, become individuals as the story progresses, which doesn’t always make the reader like them better.

Quirke, a canny, opinionated, floundering loner, works at himself, but succumbs easily to temptation. Selfish as he is, though, he is not self-absorbed and his idle reflections often lead to thoughts of others, particularly Phoebe and her concerns.

“Idly he pondered the distinction between solitude and loneliness. Solitude, he conjectured, is being alone, while loneliness is being alone among other people. Was that the case? No, something incomplete there. He had been solitary when the bar was empty, but was he lonely now that these others had appeared?

“Had April Latimer been lonely? It did not seem probable from everything he had heard of her so far.”

Black’s (aka John Banville) plot rises from these well-fleshed characters and the damp, wintry setting as Quirke probes corrosive family secrets and challenges the reign of the Catholic Church in an insular, hidebound city.

Readers of Ken Bruen and Ian Rankin will enjoy Black’s fine atmospheric prose and noirish insight.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 68 readers
PUBLISHER: Henry Holt and Co.; 1 edition (April 13, 2010)
REVIEWER: Lynn Harnett
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Benjamin Black
EXTRAS: Excerpt
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May 19, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Ireland, Noir, Sleuths Series

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