Christine Falls (Quirke Series #1)

Christine Falls (Quirke Series #1)

by Benjamin Black

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In the debut crime novel from the Booker-winning author, a Dublin pathologist follows the corpse of a mysterious woman into the heart of
a conspiracy among the city's high Catholic society

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.

Set in Dublin and Boston in the 1950s, the first novel in the Quirke series brings all the vividness and psychological insight of Booker Prize winner John Banville's fiction to a thrilling, atmospheric crime story. Quirke is a fascinating and subtly drawn hero, Christine Falls is a classic tale of suspense, and Benjamin Black's debut marks him as a true master of the form.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429906227
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 03/06/2007
Series: Quirke Series , #1
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 155,903
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Benjamin Black is the pen name of acclaimed author John Banville, who was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. His novels have won numerous awards, most recently the Man Booker Prize in 2005 for The Sea. He lives in Dublin.

Benjamin Black is the pen name of the Man Booker Prize-winning novelist John Banville. Black's books include The Black-Eyed Blonde, Christine Falls, The Silver Swan, among others. He lives in Dublin.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

It was not the dead that seemed to quirke uncanny but the living. When he walked into the morgue long after midnight and saw Malachy Griffin there he felt a shiver along his spine that was to prove prophetic, a tremor of troubles to come. Mal was in Quirke's office, sitting at the desk. Quirke stopped in the unlit body room, among the shrouded forms on their trolleys, and watched him through the open doorway. He was seated with his back to the door, leaning forward intently in his steel-framed spectacles, the desk lamp lighting the left side of his face and making an angry pink glow through the shell of his ear. He had a file open on the desk before him and was writing in it with peculiar awkwardness. This would have struck Quirke as stranger than it did if he had not been drunk. The scene sparked a memory in him from their school days together, startlingly clear, of Mal, intent like this, sitting at a desk among fifty other earnest students in a big hushed hall, as he laboriously composed an examination essay, with a beam of sunlight falling slantways on him from a window somewhere high above. A quarter of a century later he still had that smooth seal's head of oiled black hair, scrupulously combed and parted.

Sensing a presence behind him, Mal turned his face and peered into the shadowy dark of the body room. Quirke waited a moment and then stepped forward, with some unsteadiness, into the light in the doorway.

"Quirke," Mal said, recognizing him with relief and giving an exasperated sigh. "For God's sake."

Mal was in evening clothes but uncharacteristically unbuttoned, his bow tie undone and the collar of his white dress shirt open. Quirke, groping in his pockets for his cigarettes, contemplated him, noting the way he put his forearm quickly over the file to hide it, and was reminded again of school.

"Working late?" Quirke said, and grinned crookedly, the alcohol allowing him to think it a telling piece of wit.

"What are you doing here?" Mal said, too loudly, ignoring the question. He pushed the spectacles up the damp bridge of his nose with a tap of a fingertip. He was nervous.

Quirke pointed to the ceiling. "Party," he said. "Upstairs."

Mal assumed his consultant's face, frowning imperiously. "Party? What party?"

"Brenda Ruttledge," Quirke said. "One of the nurses. Her going-away."

Mal's frown deepened. "Ruttledge?"

Quirke was suddenly bored. He asked if Mal had a cigarette, for he seemed to have none of his own, but Mal ignored this question too. He stood up, deftly sweeping the file with him, still trying to hide it under his arm. Quirke, though he had to squint, saw the name scrawled in large handwritten letters on the cover of it: Christine Falls. Mal's fountain pen was on the desk, a Parker, fat and black and shiny, with a gold nib, no doubt, twenty-two karat, or more if it was possible; Mal had a taste for rich things, it was one of his few weaknesses.

"How is Sarah?" Quirke asked. He let himself droop sideways heavily until his shoulder found the support of the doorjamb. He felt dizzy, and everything was keeping up a flickering, leftward lurch. He was at the rueful stage of having drunk too much and knowing that there was nothing to be done but wait until the effects wore off. Mal had his back to him, putting the file into a drawer of the tall gray filing cabinet.

"She's well," Mal said. "We were at a Knights dinner. I sent her home in a taxi."

"Knights?" Quirke said, widening his eyes blearily.

Mal turned to him a blank, expressionless look, the lenses of his glasses flashing. "Of St. Patrick. As if you didn't know."

"Oh," Quirke said. "Right." He looked as if he were trying not to laugh. "Anyway," he said, "never mind about me, what are you doing, down here among the dead men?"

Mal had a way of bulging out his eyes and drawing upward sinuously his already long, thin form, as if to the music of a snake charmer's flute. Quirke had to marvel, not for the first time, at the polished luster of that hair, the smoothness of the brow beneath, the untarnished steely blue of his eyes behind the pebble glass of his specs.

"I had a thing to do," Mal said. "A thing to check."

"What thing?"

Mal did not answer. He studied Quirke and saw how drunk he was, and a cold glint of relief came into his eye.

"You should go home," he said.

Quirke thought to dispute this—the morgue was his territory—but again suddenly he lost all interest. He shrugged, and with Mal still watching him he turned and weaved away among the body-bearing trolleys. Halfway across the room he stumbled and reached out quickly to the edge of a trolley to steady himself but managed only to grab the sheet, which came away in his hand in a hissing white flash. He was struck by the clammy coldness of the nylon; it had a human feel, like a loose, chill cowl of bloodless skin. The corpse was that of a young woman, slim and yellow-haired; she had been pretty, but death had robbed her of her features and now she might be a carving in soapstone, primitive and bland. Something, his pathologist's instinct perhaps, told him what the name would be before he looked at the label tied to her toe. "Christine Falls," he murmured. "You were well named." Looking more closely he noticed the dark roots of her hair at forehead and temples: dead, and not even a real blonde.

He woke hours later, curled on his side, with a vague but pressing sense of imminent disaster. He had no memory of lying down here, among the corpses. He was chilled to the bone, and his tie was askew and choking him. He sat up, clearing his throat; how much had he drunk, first in McGonagle's and then at the party upstairs? The door to his office stood open—surely it was a dream that Mal had been there? He swung his legs to the floor and gingerly stood upright. He was light-headed, as if the top of his skull had been lifted clear off. Raising an arm, he gravely saluted the trolleys, Roman-style, and walked stiffly at a tilt out of the room.

The walls of the corridor were matte green and the woodwork and the radiators were thick with many coats of a bilious yellow stuff, glossy and glutinous, less like paint than crusted gruel. He paused at the foot of the incongruously grand, sweeping staircase—the building had been originally a club for Regency rakes—and was surprised to hear faint sounds of revelry still filtering down from the fifth floor. He put a foot on the stair, a hand on the banister rail, but paused again. Junior doctors, medical students, nurses beef to the heel: no, thanks, enough of that, and besides, the younger men had not wanted him there in the first place. He moved on along the corridor. He had a premonition of the hangover that was waiting for him, mallet and tongs at the ready. In the night porter's room beside the tall double doors of the main entrance a wireless set was quietly playing to itself. The Ink Spots. Quirke hummed the tune to himself. It's a sin to tell a lie. Well, that was certainly true.

When he came out onto the steps the porter was there in his brown dust coat, smoking a cigarette and contemplating a surly dawn breaking behind the dome of the Four Courts. The porter was a dapper little fellow with glasses and dusty hair and a pointed nose that twitched at the tip. In the still-dark street a motorcar oozed past.

"Morning, Porter," Quirke said.

The porter laughed. "You know the name's not Porter, Mr. Quirke," he said. The way that tuft of dry brown hair was brushed back fiercely from his forehead gave him a look of permanent, vexed surmise. A querulous mouse of a man.

"That's right," Quirke said, "you're the porter, but you're not Porter." Behind the Four Courts now a dark-blue cloud with an aspect of grim intent had begun edging its way up the sky, eclipsing the light of an as yet unseen sun. Quirke turned up the collar of his jacket, wondering vaguely what had become of the raincoat he seemed to remember wearing when he had started drinking, many hours ago. And what had become of his cigarette case? "Have you a cigarette itself to lend me?" he said.

The porter produced a packet. "They're only Woodbines, Mr. Quirke."

Quirke took the cigarette and bent over the cupped flame of his lighter, savoring the brief, flabby reek of burning petrol. He lifted his face to the sky and breathed deep the acrid smoke. How delicious it was, the day's first searing lungful. The lid of the lighter chinked as he flipped it shut. Then he had to cough, making a tearing sound in his throat.

"Christ, Porter," he said, his voice wobbling, "how can you smoke these things? Any day now I'll have you on the slab in there. When I open you up your lights will look like kippers."

The porter laughed again, a forced, breathy titter. Quirke brusquely walked away from him. As he descended the steps he felt in the nerves of his back the fellow's suddenly laughless eye following him with ill intent. What he did not feel was another, melancholy gaze angled down upon him from a lighted window five stories above, where vague, festive forms were weaving and dipping still.

Drifts of soundless summer rain were graying the trees in Merrion Square. Quirke hurried along, keeping close to the railings as if they might shelter him, the lapels of his jacket clutched tight to his throat. It was too early yet for the office workers, and the broad street was deserted, with not a car in sight, and if not for the rain he would have been able to see unhindered all the way to the Peppercanister Church, which always looked to him, viewed from a distance like this down the broad, shabby sweep of Upper Mount Street, to be set at a slightly skewed angle. Among the clustered chimneys a few were dribbling smoke; the summer was almost over, a new chill was in the air. But who had lit those fires, so early? Could there still be scullery maids to haul the coal bucket up from the basement before first light? He eyed the tall windows, thinking of all those shadowed rooms with people in them, waking, yawning, getting up to make their breakfasts, or turning over to enjoy another half hour in the damp, warm stew of their beds. Once, on another summer dawn, going along here like this, he had heard faintly from one of those windows a woman's cries of ecstasy fluttering down into the street. What a piercing stab of pity he had felt for himself then, walking all alone here, before everyone else's day had begun; piercing, and pained, but pleasurable, too, for in secret Quirke prized his loneliness as a mark of some distinction.

In the hallway of the house there was the usual smell he could never identify, brownish, exhausted, a breath out of childhood, if childhood was the word for that first decade of misery he had suffered through. He plodded up the stairs with the tread of a man mounting the gallows, his sodden shoes squelching. He had reached the first-floor return when he heard a door down in the hall opening; he stopped, sighed.

"Terrible racket again last night," Mr. Poole called up accusingly. "Not a wink."

Quirke turned. Poole stood sideways in the barely open doorway of his flat, neither in nor out, his accustomed stance, with an expression at once truculent and timid. He was an early riser, if indeed he ever slept. He wore a sleeveless pullover and a dicky-bow, twill trousers sharply creased, gray carpet slippers. He looked, Quirke always thought, like the father of a fighter pilot in one of those Battle of Britain films or, better still, the father of the fighter pilot's girlfriend.

"Good morning, Mr. Poole," Quirke said, politely distant; the fellow was often a source of light relief, but Quirke's mood this early morning was not light.

Poole's pale gull's eye glittered vengefully. He had a way of grinding his lower jaw from side to side.

"All night, no letup," he said, aggrieved. The other flats in the house were vacant, save for Quirke's on the third floor, yet Poole regularly complained of noises in the night. "Frightful carry-on, bang bang bang."

Quirke nodded. "Terrible. I was out, myself."

Poole glanced back into the room behind him, looked up at Quirke again. "It's the missus that minds," he said, lowering his voice to a whisper, "not me." This was a new twist. Mrs. Poole, rarely glimpsed, was a diminutive person with a furtive, frightened stare; she was, Quirke knew for a fact, profoundly deaf. "I've lodged a strong complaint. I shall expect action, I told them."

"Good for you."

Poole narrowed his eyes, suspecting irony. "We'll see," he said menacingly. "We'll see."

Quirke walked on up the stairs. He was at his own door before he heard Poole closing his.

Chill air stood unwelcoming in the living room, where the rain murmured against the two high windows, relics of a richer age, which no matter how dull the day were always somehow filled with a muted radiance Quirke found mysteriously dispiriting. He opened the lid of a silver cigarette box on the mantelpiece, but it was empty. He knelt on one knee and with difficulty lit the gas fire from the small flame of his cigarette lighter. With disgust he noted his dry raincoat, thrown over the back of an armchair, where it had been all the time. He rose to his feet too quickly and for a moment saw stars. When his vision cleared he was facing a photograph in a tortoiseshell frame on the mantelpiece: Mal Griffin, Sarah, himself at the age of twenty, and his future wife, Delia, laughingly pointing her racquet at the camera, all of them in tennis whites, walking forward arm in arm into a glare of sunlight. He realized with a faint shock that he could not remember where the picture had been taken; Boston, he supposed, it must have been Boston—but had they played tennis in Boston?

He took off his damp suit, put on a dressing gown, and sat down barefoot before the gas fire. He looked about the big, high-ceilinged room and grinned joylessly: his books, his prints, his Turkey carpet—his life. In the foothills of his forties, he was a decade younger than the century. The 1950s had promised a new age of prosperity and happiness for all; they were not living up to their promise. His eye settled on an artist's articulated wooden model, a foot high, standing on the low telephone table beside the window, its jointed limbs arranged in a prancing pose. He looked away, frowning, but then with a sigh of annoyance rose and went and twisted the figure into a stance of desolate abasement that would better suit his morning gloom and burgeoning hangover. He returned to the chair and sat down again. The rain ceased and there was silence but for the sibilant hiss of the gas flame. His eyes scalded, they felt as if they had been boiled; he closed them, and shivered as the lids touched, imparting to each other along their inflamed edges a tiny, horrible kiss. Clearly in his mind he saw again that moment in the photograph: the grass, the sunlight, the great hot trees, and the four of them striding forward, young and svelte and smiling. Where was it? Where? And who had been behind the camera?

Copyright © 2006 by Benjamin Black. All rights reserved.

Reading Group Guide

About this Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about Christine Falls are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach Christine Falls.


Benjamin Black and the 1950s

When I decided to try my hand at noir fiction, I realized at once that Dublin in the 1950s would be the ideal setting. All that dinginess, that fog and coal-smoke, those misty mornings and rain-washed twilights, those heartbreakingly lovely silver-grey evenings along the canal bank between the humped, granite bridges; all that furtiveness, that covert sinning; all that despair, all that guilt -- what more could a crime writer ask for?

In those days, Dublin for me was a distant bright glow in a generally overcast sky. I was born, in 1945, in Wexford, a little Irish seaport town situated in what is known as the Sunny South-East, a description that used to provoke mirth among locals, and probably still does. I grew up in a temperate climate, in tranquil times, or at least so it seemed. Life in Ireland was slow, unsusceptible to change, pleasant sometimes, boring always. When I look back now to what was then I might be seeing scenes from Breughel, or Jack B. Yeats at his most primitive. The wars of the Counter-Reformation had long ago ended in Europe, but in Ireland the last one of them had not even begun yet.

Ireland in the 1950s was still held fast in the grip of tradition. Although we did not know it, and would have been shocked to think it, our conditions were very like those in the Eastern Bloc countries. The State, backed by an iron ideology -- Irish Catholicism is a special case of the Roman faith -- ruled over us absolutely; all protest was futile, all dissension was punished. Sinners and misfits alike were sent into exile. Inconveniently free-thinking writers were forced to go abroad or be silent; recalcitrant boys were locked away in Industrial Schools; girls who got pregnant "out of wedlock," as it was quaintly put, were sent to work -- to slave, really -- in laundries run by nuns, and when their babies were born they were taken away from them and put in orphanages, here and abroad. These were the realities of life on this right little, tight little island.

Of course, some had it good -- there is always a nomenklatura. Men of the middle-class establishment, politicians, doctors, lawyers, captains of industry, were free to conduct their lives as such people do everywhere, so long as they were discreet and observed the public pieties. For the rest of us, the stuff of life was a thin gruel indeed. In the 1970s a right-wing politician famously complained that "there was no sex in Ireland before we had television" -- our first TV station started up in the early 1960s -- and while everyone scoffed, in our hearts we knew exactly what he meant.

When I was growing up, Sunday newspapers from England would have blank squares where the Fleet Street printers had removed advertisements for contraceptives, for if the ads had been left in, the papers would have been impounded by Irish Customs. A few years ago I was walking down O'Connell Street in Dublin and saw before me a double-decker bus entirely painted over with an advertisement for Durex condoms. Times do change -- not always entirely for the better, and often at the expense of good taste.

Murder was a rare occurrence here in the 1950s. The country was held enthralled for months by the case of an Indian medical student in Dublin who got an Irish girl pregnant, strangled her, and cut up her corpse and fed it into the furnace in the basement of a restaurant where he had a part-time job. Even Wexford was not without its grisly glories: we were horribly thrilled when the owner of a sweet-shop in Cinema Lane was bludgeoned to death one black winter night by an intruder who was never brought to justice, though everyone knew his identity. The thought of all that blood spilled among the toffee bars and the bottles of bull's-eyes was deliciously shiver-inducing. Oh, we were shocked by such excesses, of course, but as George Orwell pointed out in his essay "The Decline of the English Murder," we all like nothing better than a good, juicy homicide.

Dublin in those days was a rackety town, a "relic of oul dacency," as we would have said. What had once been the second city of the United Kingdom was now, in Republican times, much reduced. An aunt of mine lived there, in a vast, leaky apartment in a Georgian house on Upper Mount Street, just up from Government Buildings, one of the handsomest 18th-century thoroughfares surviving in the city and, in those days, the well-worn beat for what must surely have been Europe's unloveliest contingent of whores. When I came to write Christine Falls I gave that apartment to my protagonist, Quirke. The house is now a solicitor's offices, and from the outside, at least, seems just as run-down as it was 45 years ago, when I inherited the apartment from my aunt and moved in, thinking myself a ready-made cosmopolitan. Quirke lives the life that I wanted in those days: he is well heeled, independent, handsome, fascinatingly troubled, and seemingly irresistible to women. Even his woes are enviable. And Dublin is his town, as it was never quite mine, and as it is not quite mine even yet. But then, Quirke's Dublin is a Dublin of the imagination, and what real city can live up to its imagined shadow-version? --John Banville

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Christine Falls (Quirke Series #1) 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 90 reviews.
GG1000 More than 1 year ago
This is what happens when a Man Booker prize winning literary author turns his hand to the murder-thriller genre - a deep and meaningful character-driven story of human weakness, the meaning of sin and meditations on evil. Banville (Benjamin Black is a pen name for Irish author John Banville) creates an oppressive atmosphere of dark foreboding that pervades the story's every corner. At the end, the question is no longer the identity of "the bad guy" but rather of who among us is innocent. The main character, Quirke, is not a sharp detective type, but rather a damaged and lost soul bumbling about a confusing and ever-changing landscape of his world, ties and responsibilities as his sense that he is in some way complicit drives him to seek an answer to the question of what happened to Christine Falls.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written; descriptions do not slow down the story.
GriffsPal More than 1 year ago
Don't pass this one out if you are a fan of well-written, atmospheric novels of psychological suspense, whose ending will indeed surprise you. The main character, who has an emotional depth surprising for a detective (he's not just a drunk if you read the sample pages), promises to continue to fascinate me in the further novels in the series. Benjamin Black is the pen name of Booker-Award winning Irish author John Banville.
Persuasion_33 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this novel. It was dark and stormy and generated a lot of Irish imagery. John Banville's books always leave me a little depressed about the human condition, but they're so authentic that I enjoy them. His prose is engaging and thought-provoking and I can read his novels (including this one) for hours at a time without realizing I haven't moved.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
well written story. This the is first book of this author's I have read. I was drawn into the story. He made everything dramatic, but not overly suspenseful. You knew something was awry and you didn't want to put the book down until you knew what exactly was going on. This makes for a good author and good read!
PrairieSpy More than 1 year ago
'Christine Falls' marks the debut story of pathologist Quirke. I look forward to continuing with 'The Silver Swan.' Quirke and the other characters are a little flawed, making their stories more like real life. Whose life doesn't have some contradictions? Who hasn't told a lie, thinking it is done for a good reason? The prose is beautiful. Not every detail gets tied up at the end. There are questions I want to discuss with others who have read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While I agree with other reviewers that the ending of this novel was a bit of a letdown, I'd still recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good thriller. The writing is lush and visual, the characters well-defined and the progression of events kept my fingers busy turning pages late into the night. All in all, a riveting read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was excited to start this book, however once I started I was bored. I never really cared about any of the characters and had to force myself to keep reading hoping something big would happen. All the makings of a great book were there but somehow it just never clicked for me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book grabbed me from the beginning. It's very well written with interesting characters, mystery and suspense. The thing is, I had the 'mystery' figured out so early that I thought I had to be wrong. Certainly this wonderful writer would sucker-punch me at the end with something shocking and out of left field. Didn't happen. The suspense that grabbed me right away just fizzled out. Still, it's a good story by a really good writer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The descriptions are excellent. The characters keep you involved and everything ties together well to the end. I borrowed this book from a library and liked it so well that I placed an order to buy my own. I can't wait for the next in the series.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Dublin after a few drinks at an office going away party for a nurse, pathologist Garret Quirke enters his prime work area the morgue only to be stunned by what he sees in spite of being drunk. His stepbrother Dr. Malachy Griffin was sitting at Quirke¿s desk writing in a file that the pathologist noticed is that of Christine Falls. Too tired to think any further Quirke leaves a nervous Mal behind. --- After several hours of sleep, Quirke wonders why Mal was at the morgue instead of home with his wife Susan. He begins to look closer at the death of the young maid, Christine Falls, who died during childbirth especially since he knows Mal changed the file. However, whenever he raises a point, he finds the Irish medical establishment protecting one another while the clues take him to Boston. --- This is terrific 1950s medical thriller that constantly pulls the rig out from underneath the reader with fabulous unexpected yet plausible twists. The subplot in Dublin is foggy and mysterious as the audience alongside the obstinate hero wonders what is going on. The shift to Boston turns more detective like in tone and less sinister, as the clues begin to come together though spins still will fool the reader. Benjamin Black provides a superior medical investigative tale that will have fans clamoring for more work by quirky Quirke. --- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous 7 months ago
indygo88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While I did not dislike this book, I felt that it fell flat somewhere along the way. The description seems a little misleading (crime novel, classic suspense, thriller, conspiracy among the Catholic society....). Yes, those aspects are in there, but not remarkably so. I wouldn't classify this in any one genre -- it overlapped into several, I think, but didn't really "fit" into one or another. I felt the story had a lot of potential & perhaps I was hoping for more resolution that just didn't seem to be there. So for me, it was a bit of a disappointment, but not altogether disappointing, if that makes sense. Still, I think I may be sucked into another in this series, just to see what else might happen with the main character of Quirke.
RachelWeaver on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good God! (as Quirke would say...) Oh so melodramatic, morose, maudlin, and many more M words, I'm sure. I made it just over halfway through before I couldn't keep a straight face anymore and I had to stop.
bohemiangirl35 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am surprised that I actually liked this book. I tend not to read too much Irish, British, English fiction because I listen to audio books and don't care for those particular accents. However, I gave this one a try and although I had a hard time with Timothy Dalton's narration (I think it was more the pitch of his voice than anything), I did enjoy the story.The beginning of the book was excellent, the ending was only so-so, and the mystery itself was not very difficult. But I liked the fact that the main character had some real flaws and wasn't invincible. I also liked that he was persistent. I wonder if Quirke might have solved the mystery sooner if it didn't involve his family. Sometimes people see so much of what we want to see that we don't see what's really there.
pandalibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Slow start and hard to get into - I actually put this one down and read another book before finishing this one. It took over half the book, but I finally cared what happened to the characters and wanted to solve the mystery.
benfulton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Let me just start out by saying that this is a pretty good book. The characters are interesting, and the language is very well done, which is why I gave it a four-star rating; rarified territory for me.I came in to this novel expecting a mystery, especially since it's a "debut crime novel", but it turns out that debut crime novels aren't necessarily mysteries, and there isn't any particular puzzle to solve.So what is there? Well, just a bunch of loosely related people doing a bunch of loosely related things, and from this we are supposed to, I think, induct great insights into the Human Condition.Meh.I loved Terry Pratchett's Reaper Man, and one of the reasons is how real Death expects people to be. OH. DRAMA. he says dismissively, when another character poses tragically against a backdrop. It kind of sums up what I think of this book. I don't want to add in a bunch of spoilers for the plot, but suffice it to say that if the characters would just act sensibly, there wouldn't have been much of a book. Are all of we human beings really terribly driven by subconscious compulsions to self-destructive behavior? I don't think I am. Now, one or maybe two characters in a book that are psychotic I can maybe buy into, but in this one I feel like every character is nuts. Maybe that's just the way people are in Dublin. So: read it if you like good, plain writing. Read it if you like good characters and good pacing. But keep it in mind: Sensible people just don't act like this.OH. DRAMA.
ALLLGooD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had the expectation that this would be a more traditional whodunit. It ended up being a more intricate and complicated story of corruption that was fun to uncover.
citygirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Literary novelist dips his toe into Mystery waters. An Irish pathologist in the 1950s discovers his sort-of-brother tampering with the file of one of his corpses (Christine Falls) and cannot rest until he finds out why, thereby uncovering family secrets and bringing the demons of past loves ot the forefront, etc. Beautifully written, interesting characters, multilayered and ironic. I enjoyed how the perspective shifted from character to character, who seem only tangentially connected at first. Banville writes lovely descriptions, the kind that stick in your head, sort of like Dickens. It's quite a bleak book, but rewarding.Why: it first came to my attention probably a year ago when I was supposed to receive an ER copy, which never showed up, so when I saw it on the bargain shelf recently, I swooped it up. I love literary mysteries.
markatread on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A well written first two-thirds of the book in no way makes up for the final third of the book where it just falls apart.
DeltaQueen50 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have to admit that I am feeling a little let down by Christine Falls, on the one hand this book is strongly written by Benjamin Black, a pseudonym for author John Banville, but on the other, the actual plot seemed lacklustre and felt manufactured. This dark tale of baby smuggling by a powerful Catholic Society in the early 1950`s involves murder, conspiracy and family secrets, and although parts of the book are truly well done, there were also parts that I found repetitive and rather boring. Rather than a mystery, I felt the book was much more of a character study, and the main character, Quirke with his drinking, secrets and isolation was a familiar one for this genre. Unfortunately, the women in the book were on the most part damaged, fragile and insecure. I did love the fact that Black wrote a very layered tale and, in classic mystery style, slowly bits were peeled back and revealed. I guess what was missing for me was an actual mystery. In the long run although I enjoyed the original and creative writing in Christine Falls, I needed more than well turned phrases, and both the pacing and the plot felt a little flat.
-Eva- on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When Quirke finds his brother-in-law falsifying the death certificate of Christine Falls, he charges himself with finding out what really happened to the young woman and her baby, a search which will land not only himself but his nearest and dearest in deep trouble. I'm not entirely sure why John Banville decided to try his hand at mystery. I do know that it wasn't a great idea. The writing is quality, no doubt about it, but as a mystery it's a complete failure since the clues are huge red flags and it's impossible not to figure out every resolution well in advance. In addition, every one of the characters turns out to be deceptive and mean and I just couldn't bother to care for even one of them - Quirke is just sulky and/or drunk (yet somehow irresistible to all women...) and not even in a funny way. Even the eventual "baddie" is so generic it's not worth getting up in arms about. Banville should probably stick to the literary genre instead of thinking that the crime genre is a doddle anyone can master.
jeanned on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As the body count grows throughout the pages of this atmospheric mystery, the secrets of wealthy families and powerful men unravel. My own vision of the 1950s was never so cold, dark, and callous. This 2007 winner of both the Anthony Award and the Edgar Award was also a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (Mystery / Thriller category) and the 2007 Macavity Award. In order to maintain the standardization of my rating system, I must award it an 8 out of 10, but these are elemental decisions that don't reflect my being less-than-satisfied at the novel's end.
DCBlack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an atypical crime thriller; stronger than most on character development and elegant prose, but weaker in pacing and plot development. I personally felt that Banville revealed a bit too much about the Boston end of the baby smuggling operation, too soon, leaving the reader to wait for Quirke to catch on as he followed the thread from Dublin across the Atlantic to America. Also there were several sections that dragged as the author goes into excruciating lengths developing the atmospherics.
downstreamer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When John Banville decided to write a straightforward mystery novel he adopted the pen name of Benjamin Black. This gave him permission to write faster, and be more interested in a plot driven story. "Christine Falls" is the first of these novels, and despite the different approach, the old Banville is, thankfully, still evident.Banville's signature attention to the details of weather - passing clouds, changing light, the effect of mist, sleet, and cold weather - makes the book worth reading on its own. Set largely in 1950's Dublin, there is a conviviality in the indoor scenes which comes largely from the contrast to the weather outdoors. The main character, Quirke, is a pathologist who stumbles onto a plot involving the distribution of unwanted orphans to Boston. The scheme involves his close family, and he must decide whether or not to proceed, as he is warned off at all levels. While the story is indeed plot driven, it it not at the expense of Banville's exquisite attention to descriptive detail, his evocation of place, his uncanny ability to conjure up a scene and a mood through description of smells. The ending of the story is frenetic, and somewhat improbable, but this is still a book to be savored and enjoyed.