CHRISTINE FALLS
Benjamin Black

 


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Pan Macmillan Australia, Nov 2006
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill

The Pathology Department doesn't have too many visitors and Quirke's patients never talk back. Those are just two of the reasons Quirke loves his job. One night after drinking a little too much at a party, Quirke calls in to the Pathology Department on his way home and discovers a body that didn't get there through normal procedures. His brother-in-law, a paediatrician named Malachy Griffin, is with the body filling in some paperwork. Malachy's reaction arouses Quirke's curiosity, so he begins to ask questions.

For a start, Christine Falls' listed cause of death doesn't match with Quirke's findings; there are signs that the young woman had recently given birth. Dublin of the 1950's is very conservative and when Quirke discovers a network of the rich and powerful in the background he finds himself uncovering uncomfortable secrets: secrets that force him to confront his own past; secrets which take him to Boston in the U.S.A.

Benjamin Black is a nom de plume for Booker Prize-winning author John Banville. Before writing this review, I read some reviews and articles about CHRISTINE FALLS. In one of them, the writer wondered why recognised authors felt the need to use another name when venturing into crime fiction, especially when the book promotion makes a feature of the fact that the author is writing under another name. What's the point?

The plot synopsis plays up the mystery element of CHRISTINE FALLS, but I found it took a back seat to the relationships and the exploration of the past and how it can surface to hurt those in the present. In Quirke's journey to find the truth about the fate of Christine Falls, he also uncovers truths about his own orphaned childhood and the lives of those close to him, with some shocking results.

I found myself a little disappointed in CHRISTINE FALLS. Because of Quirke's occupation, I was expecting to learn more about pathology and how it was practiced in the 1950's. In fact, Quirke could have just as easily been an accountant or a lawyer and it wouldn't have changed the plot.

There is a thread of the book that takes place in Boston which I found to be a little more compelling than Quirke's part in the story. However I found the U.S. thread to be just a little predictable. The book is well written and the author has a nice line in prose, but ultimately I felt a little let down because CHRISTINE FALLS wasn't quite what I was led to believe by the blurb.

March 2007 review originally published on Murder & Mayhem

 

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