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
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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