Day: June 4, 2014

Quirke Mysteries

The winner for this year’s Prince of Asturias Award for literature has gone to Irish novelist John Banville. Banville is also well known for his crime novels which are written under the pseudonym of Benjamin Black. It can be highlighted, among his crime books, the series featuring Quirke, a Dublin pathologist, and set in the 1950s. 

If you, like me, have not yet read any of his books, it seems to me a great opportunity for getting started.

For additional information visit  Benjamin Black Website

Books in this series (Fantastic Fiction)

Christine Falls: Quirke Mysteries Book 1Christine Falls, 2006

In the Pathology Department it was always night. This was one of the things Quirke liked about his job…it was restful, cosy, one might almost say, down in these depths nearly two floors beneath the city’s busy pavements. There was too a sense here of being part of the continuance of ancient practices, secret skills, of work too dark to be carried on up in the light. But one night, late after a party, Quirke stumbles across a body that shouldn’t have been there…and his brother-in-law, eminent paediatrician Malachy Griffin – a rare sight in Quirke’s gloomy domain – altering a file to cover up the corpse’s cause of death. It is the first time Quirke encounters Christine Falls, but the investigation he decides to lead into the way she lived – and the reason she died – disturbs a dark secret that has been festering at the core of Dublin’s high Catholic society, a secret ready to destabilize the very heart and soul of Quirke’s own family…

The Silver Swan: Quirke Mysteries Book 2The Silver Swan, 2007

Time has moved on for Quirke, the world-weary Dublin pathologist first encountered in Christine Falls. It is the middle of the 1950s, that low, dishonourable decade; a woman he loved has died, a man whom he once admired is dying, while the daughter he for so long denied is still finding it hard to accept him as her father. When Billy Hunt, an acquaintance from college days, approaches him about his wife’s apparent suicide, Quirke recognises trouble but, as always, trouble is something he cannot resist. Slowly he is drawn into a twilight world of drug addiction, sexual obsession, blackmail and murder, a world in which even the redoubtable Inspector Hackett can offer him few directions.

Elegy for April: Quirke Mysteries Book 3Elegy for April, 2010

Quirke – the hard-drinking, insatiably curious Dublin pathologist – is back, and he’s determined to find his daughter’s best friend, a well-connected young doctor.

April Latimer has vanished. A junior doctor at a local hospital, she is something of a scandal in the conservative and highly patriarchal society of 1950s Dublin. Though her family is one of the most respected in the city, she is known for being independent-minded; her taste in men, for instance, is decidedly unconventional.

Now April has disappeared, and her friend Phoebe Griffin suspects the worst. Frantic, Phoebe seeks out Quirke, her brilliant but erratic father, and asks him for help. Sober again after intensive treatment for alcoholism, Quirke enlists his old sparring partner, Detective Inspector Hackett, in the search for the missing young woman. In their separate ways the two men follow April’s trail through some of the darker byways of the city to uncover crucial information on her whereabouts. And as Quirke becomes deeply involved in April’s murky story, he encounters complicated and ugly truths about family savagery, Catholic ruthlessness, and race hatred.

Both an absorbing crime novel and a brilliant portrait of the difficult and relentless love between a father and his daughter, this is Benjamin Black at his sparkling best.

A Death in SummerA Death In Summer, 2011

When newspaper magnate Richard Jewell is found dead at his country estate, clutching a shotgun in his lifeless hands, few see his demise as cause for sorrow. But before long Doctor Quirke and Inspector Hackett realise that, rather than the suspected suicide, ‘Diamond Dick’ has in fact been murdered. Jewell had made many enemies over the years and suspicion soon falls on one of his biggest rivals. But as Quirke and his assistant Sinclair get to know Jewell’s beautiful, enigmatic wife Francoise d’Aubigny, and his fragile sister Dannie, as well as those who work for the family, it gradually becomes clear that all is not as it seems. As Quirke’s investigations return him to the notorious orphanage of St Christopher’s, where he once resided, events begin to take a much darker turn. Quirke finds himself reunited with an old enemy and Sinclair receives sinister threats. But what have the shadowy benefactors of St Christopher’s to do with it all? Against the backdrop of 1950’s Dublin, Benjamin Black conjures another atmospheric, beguiling mystery.

Vengeance: Quirke Mysteries Book 5Vengeance, 2012

A bizarre suicide leads to a scandal and then still more blood, as one of our most brilliant crime novelists reveals a world where money and sex trump everything.

It’s a fine day for a sail, and Victor de Courcy, one of Ireland’s most successful businessmen, takes his boat far out to sea. With him is his partner’s son – who becomes the sole witness when de Courcy produces a pistol, points it at his own chest, and fires.

This mysterious death immediately engages the attention of Detective Inspector Hackett, who in turn calls upon the services of his sometime partner Quirke, consultant pathologist at the Hospital of the Holy Family. The stakes are high: de Courcy’s prominence in business circles means that Hackett and Quirke must proceed very carefully. Among others, they interview Mona de Courcy, the dead man’s young and very beautiful wife; James and Jonas de Courcy, his identical twin sons; and Jack Clancy, his ambitious, womanizing partner. But then a second death occurs, this one even more shocking than the first, and quickly it becomes apparent that a terrible secret threatens to destroy the lives and reputations of several members of Dublin’s elite.

Why did Victor de Courcy kill himself, and who is intent upon wreaking vengeance on so many of those who knew him?

Holy Orders: Quirke Mysteries Book 6Holy Orders , 2013

When the body of his daughter’s friend is brought to his autopsy table, Quirke is plunged into a world of corruption that takes him to religion’s darkest corners.

’At first they thought it was the body of a child. Then they noticed the pubic hair and the nicotine stains on the fingers.’

So begins the latest Quirke case, a story set in Dublin at a moment when newspapers are censored, social conventions are strictly defined, and appalling crimes are hushed up. Why? Because in post-war Ireland the Catholic Church controls the lives of nearly everyone. But when his daughter Phoebe loses her close friend Jimmy Minor to murder, Quirke can no longer play by the Church’s rules. Together with Inspector Hackett, his sometime partner, Quirke investigates Jimmy’s death and learns just how far the Church will go to protect its own.

Haunting, fierce, and brilliantly plotted, this is Benjamin Black writing at the top of his form. His inimitable creation, the endlessly curious Quirke, brings a pathologist’s unique understanding of death to unlock secrets that have been shielded for centuries.

John Banville (Benjamin Black) Prince of Asturias Award for Literature 2014

At its meeting in Oviedo, the Jury for the 2014 Prince of Asturias Award for Literature, composed of Xuan Bello Fernández, Amelia Castilla Alcolado, Juan Cruz Ruiz, Luis Alberto de Cuenca y Prado, José Luis García Martín, Álex Grijelmo García, Manuel Llorente Manchado, Rosa Navarro Durán, Carme Riera i Guilera, Fernando Rodríguez Lafuente, Fernando Sánchez Dragó, Ana Santos Aramburo, Diana Sorensen, Sergio Vila-Sanjuán Robert, chaired by José Manuel Blecua Perdices and with José Luis García Delgado acting as secretary, has decided to confer the 2014 Prince of Asturias Award for Literature on the Irish novelist John Banville for his intelligent, insightful and original work as a novelist, and on his other self, Benjamin Black, author of disturbing, critical crime novels.

John Banville’s prose opens up dazzling lyrical landscapes through cultural references in which he breathes new life into classical myths and beauty goes hand in hand with irony. At the same time, he displays an intense analysis of complex human beings that ensnare us in their descent into the darkness of baseness or in their existential fellowship. Each of his works attracts and delights for his skill in developing the plot and his mastery of registers and expressive nuances, as well as for his reflections on the secrets of the human heart.

Oviedo, 4th June 2014

Click here for additional information.

The Revenge Trilogy by Mike Nicol

Thanks to Peter Rozovsky at his excellent blog Detectives Beyond Borders I’ve come across a new-to-me author, Mike Nicol. See his post Black Heart, or Why you should spend your pennies on a book by Mike Nicol.

Mike Nicol is a journalist and writer, and teacher of online writing courses on creative writing and non-fiction narrative. He lives in Cape Town. He has had writer-in-residence positions at UCT and the University of Essen, Germany, and in Berlin under the German Academic Exchange Service’s Artists-in-Berlin grant.

His Revenge Trilogy (Payback (Umuzi, Cape Town, 2008); Killer Country (Umuzi, Cape Town, 2010); Black Heart (Umuzi, Cape Town, 2011) featuring Mace and Pylon is published by Umuzi in South Africa and Old Street in the UK. (Books Live)

Payback has been reviewed by Col at Col’s Criminal Library 

Stay tuned.