Month: March 2018

A Crime is Afoot: March 2018 Leisure Reading

leisure_readingBooks I began reading during February 2018, but I reviewed in March

This is How It Ends (2018) by Eva Dolan (A+)

Death Makes a Prophet, 1947 (Superintendent William Meredith #11), by John Bude (B)

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, 1940 (Hercule Poirot # 19) by Agatha Christie (A+)

Books I read and reviewed in March 2018

Even the Dead, 2015 (Quirke #7) by Benjamin Black (A+)

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books (2017), by Martin Edwards Not rated since it is not a work of fiction but I strongly recommend it.

Maigret Travels, 1957 (Inspector Maigret #51) by Georges Simenon (Trans: Howard Curtis) (B)

Books I’ve read or I’m presently reading, whose reviews I’ll be posting soon

The Lady From Zagreb: Bernie Gunther # 10 (2015) by Philip Kerr

Dust Devils (2011) by Roger Smith

The Castleford Conundrum (1932) by J.J. Connington

Review: Maigret Travels, 1957 (Inspector Maigret #51) by Georges Simenon (Trans: Howard Curtis)

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Penguin Classics, 2017. Format: Kindle edition. File size: 2702.0 KB. Print length: 171 pages. First published in French as Maigret voyage by Presses de la Cité, 1957. First translated into English in 1974 as Maigret and the Millionaires, translated by Jean Stewart. This translation by Howard Curtis was first published in 2018. ISBN:  978-0-241-30383-2. ASIN: B073XB1HSN.

First paragraph: ‘The most troublesome cases are those that seem so commonplace at first that you don’t attach any importance to them. They’re a bit like those illnesses that start in a subdued way, with a vague sense of unease. By the time you finally take them seriously, it’s often too late.’

cover.jpg.rendition.460.707 (1)Book description: The attempted suicide of a countess and the death of a billionaire in the same luxury Paris hotel send Maigret to the Riviera and then to Switzerland, as he searches for the truth amid the glittering world of the super-rich. Eyes half-closed, head tilted against the back of his seat, he seemed not to be thinking, as the plane flew over a thick carpet of bright clouds. In reality, he was making an effort to bring names and shadowy figures to life, names and figures that even this morning had been as unknown to him as the inhabitants of another planet.

My take: This investigation revolves around the death of Colonel David Ward, an English billionaire found drowned in the bathtub of his suite at the Hôtel George-V in Paris. His death looks suspicious. In fact, Maigret finds enough evidence that suggest it wasn’t the result of an unfortunate accident. Besides, the night before, Countess Louise Palmieri attempted to commit suicide with a high dose of barbiturates, in a room located on the same floor of the hotel, not far from the Colonel’s room. Fortunately the prompt  intervention of a doctor saved her life and, that same night, Countess Palmieri was admitted to the English Hospital in Neuilly. The suicide attempt had not drawn much the attention of the police and it might had easily pass by unnoticed. What Maigret didn’t find out until later on was that the previous night, just before two in the morning, Countess Palmieri and Colonel David Ward had got out of a taxi outside the George-V, and the porter wasn’t surprised seeing them together when they collected their keys. More surprising was to discover the next morning that Countess Palmierii had already got up and left the hospital, without anyone noticing. Consequently Maigret decides to follow in her steps travelling to Marseille and Lausanne.

Perhaps most significant of this novel is that it unfolds in a world that is completely alien and unknown for Maigret. The world of those extremely wealthy. In his own words These people irritated him, that much was a fact. Faced with them, he was in the position of a newcomer in a club, for example, or a new pupil in a class who feels awkward and embarrassed because he doesn’t yet know the rules, the customs, the catchphrases, and assumes that the others are laughing at him.

I have to admit I’ve enjoyed the reading of this book, however as a detective story, I was disappointed somewhat. Maybe because my expectations were too high. But in any case it’s well worth reading.

My rating: B (I liked it)

About the author: Georges Simenon was one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century, capable of writing 60 to 80 pages per day. His oeuvre includes nearly 200 novels, over 150 novellas, several autobiographical works, numerous articles, and scores of pulp novels written under more than two dozen pseudonyms. Altogether, about 550 million copies of his works have been printed. He is best known, however, for his 75 novels and 28 short stories featuring Commissaire Maigret. The first novel in the series, Pietr-le-Letton, appeared in 1931; the last one, Maigret et M. Charles, was published in 1972. The Maigret novels were translated into all major languages and several of them were turned into films and radio plays. Two television series (1960-63 and 1992-93) have been made in Great Britain. Simenon also wrote a large number of “psychological novels”, such as La neige était sale (1948) or Le fils (1957), as well as several autobiographical works, in particular Je me souviens (1945), Pedigree (1948), Mémoires intimes (1981).

About the translator: Howard Curtis has more than twenty years experience working as a freelance literary translator from French, Italian and Spanish for publishers including Harvill Secker, Little Brown, Europa Editions, Constable & Robinson, Pushkin Press, Gallic Books, Bitter Lemon Press, Hesperus Press, Transworld, Crown, etc. Among the authors he has translated are Jean-Claude Izzo, Gianrico Carofiglio, Luis Sepulveda, Jean-Francois Parot, Marek Halter, Pietro Grossi, Giorgio Scerbanenco, Michele Giuttari, Donato Carrisi, Georges Simenon, Gustave Flaubert, Honore de Balzac, Luigi Pirandello, Beppe Fenoglio, Leonardo Sciascia, Andre Malraux, Francisco Coloane, Caroline Lamarche, Giorgio Faletti, Marc Dugain, Filippo Bologna, Marella Caracciolo Chia, Caryl Ferey, Fabio Geda, Santiago Gamboa, Simona Sparaco, Carole Martinez, Paolo Sorrentino and Alessandro Perissinotto. Specialties: Contemporary and classic fiction and non-fiction. (Source: Howard Curtis Linkedin page)

Maigret Travels has been reviewed at Amazon.co.uk customer reviews

Penguin UK publicity page

Penguin US publicity page

Maigret voyage 

Maigret of the Month: April, 2008

Tout Maigret

Maigret viaja, de Georges Simenon

Primer párrafo: “Los casos más difíciles son aquellos que parecen tan triviales al principio que no les das importancia alguna. Son un poco como esas enfermedades que comienzan de forma tenue, con una vaga sensación de malestar. Cuando finalmente los tomas en serio, a menudo es demasiado tarde“.

Descripción del libro: El intento de suicidio de una condesa y la muerte de un multimillonario en el mismo lujoso hotel de París envían a Maigret a la Riviera y después a Suiza, conforme busca la verdad en medio del brillante mundo de los súper ricos. Los ojos entornados, la cabeza inclinada sobre el respaldo del asiento, parecía que no estaba pensando, mientras el avión volaba sobre una gruesa alfombra de nubes brillantes. En realidad, hacía un esfuerzo por dar vida a nombres y personajes sombríos, nombres y personajes que incluso esta mañana le habían sido tan desconocidos como los habitantes de otro planeta.

Mi opinión: Esta investigación gira en torno a la muerte del coronel David Ward, un multimillonario inglés encontrado ahogado en la bañera de su suite en el Hôtel George-V de París. Su muerte parece sospechosa. De hecho, Maigret encuentra suficientes pruebas que sugieren que no fue el resultado de un desafortunado accidente. Además, la noche anterior, la condesa Louise Palmieri intentó suicidarse con una alta dosis de barbitúricos, en una habitación ubicada en el mismo piso del hotel, no lejos de la habitación del coronel. Afortunadamente, la pronta intervención de un médico le salvó la vida y, esa misma noche, la condesa Palmieri ingresó en el English Hospital en Neuilly. El intento de suicidio no había llamado mucho la atención de la policía y podría haber pasado fácilmente desapercibido. Lo que Maigret no descubrió hasta más tarde fue que la noche anterior, justo antes de las dos de la madrugada, la condesa Palmieri y el coronel David Ward habían bajado de un taxi en las afueras del George-V, y el portero no se sorprendió al verlos juntos cuando recogieron sus llaves. Más sorprendente fue descubrir a la mañana siguiente, que la condesa Palmierii ya se había levantado y había salido del hospital, sin que nadie lo notara. En consecuencia, Maigret decide seguir sus pasos viajando a Marsella y Lausana.

Quizás lo más significativo de esta novela es que se desarrolla en un mundo que es completamente ajeno y desconocido para Maigret. El mundo de los extremadamente ricos En sus propias palabras, esta gente lo irritaba, eso era un hecho. Frente a ellos, él se encontraba en la posición de un recién llegado en un club, por ejemplo, o un nuevo alumno en una clase que se siente incómodo y avergonzado porque aún no conoce las reglas, las costumbres, las frases hechas y supone que los otros se ríen de él.

Tengo que admitir que he disfrutado la lectura de este libro, sin embargo, como una historia de detectives, me decepcionó un poco. Tal vez porque mis expectativas eran demasiado altas. Pero en cualquier caso, vale la pena leerlo.

Mi valoración: B (Me gustó)

Sobre el autor: Autor y periodista belga, Georges Simenon abandonó los estudios secundarios por necesidades económicas y se dedicó a varios trabajos ocasionales hasta entrar a trabajar como reportero de La Gazette de Liège, trabajo que le permitió conocer los ambientes marginales de su ciudad y que le servirían para sus novelas. Simenon publicó por primera vez en 1921 bajo seudónimo, y un año después se instaló en París, viviendo ambientes culturales y bohemios. Viajó por todo el mundo haciendo reportajes y entrevistas. Tras la Segundo Guerra Mundial, viajó a Estados Unidos, en donde permaneció diez años, continuando con su labor literaria. A su regreso, se instaló en la Costa Azul y posteriormente en un pueblo cerca de Lausana. Simenon fue un autor prolífico, con casi 200 novelas publicadas, es uno de los autores en lengua francesa más vendidos de la historia, y es conocido principalmente por sus 103 títulos (75 novelas y 28 relatos) protagonizados por el Comisario Jules Maigret.

Philip Kerr (1956–2018) a tribute

51vJ2Rno2jLThe sad news of Philip Kerr’s death, soon spread last night through social networks. In a succinct release, his widow Jane Thynne, wrote:

RIP beloved Philip Kerr. Creator of the wonderful #BernieGunter. Genius writer and adored father and husband. 1956-2018.  

A friend of mine asked me this morning: With which one of his novel is it worth starting?

Personally I suggest to start with Berlin Noir, his trilogy including March Violets, Pale Criminal, and A German Requiem. Hereafter, his novels don’t follow a strict chronological order and can be read in any order.

  • The One From the Other. New York: Putnam, 2006, the story is set in 1949
  • A Quiet Flame. London: Quercus, 2008, the story is set in 1950
  • If The Dead Rise Not. London: Quercus, 2009, the story is set in 1934 and 1954
  • Field Grey. London: Quercus, 2010, the story is set in 1954 with flashbacks over 20 years
  • Prague Fatale. London: Quercus, 2011, the story is set in 1941
  • A Man Without Breath. London: Quercus, 2013. the story is set in 1943
  • The Lady From Zagreb. London: Quercus, 2015, the story is set in 1942-3, with framing scenes in 1956.
  • The Other Side of Silence. London: Quercus, 2016, the story is set in 1956
  • Prussian Blue. London: Quercus, 2017, the story is set in 1939, with framing scenes in 1956
  • Greeks Bearing Gifts. London: Quercus, 2018. Will be released on 3 April, 2018. In 1957 (?)

It would be advisable to read then in order of publication, but always read first The Other Side of Silence, before Prussian Blue. And perhaps A Man Without Breath, prior to The Lady From Zagreb. Anyway, please take my view with a pinch of salt, I’m personally not following any order on my readings.

Philip Kerr was born in Edinburgh in 1956 and read Law at university. Having learned nothing as an undergraduate lawyer he stayed on as postgraduate and read Law and Philosophy, most of this German, which was when and where he first became interested in German twentieth century history and, in particular, the Nazis. Following university he worked as a copywriter at a number of advertising agencies, including Saatchi & Saatchi, during which time he wrote no advertising slogans of any note. He spent most of his time in advertising researching an idea he’d had for a novel about a Berlin-based policeman, in 1936. And following several trips to Germany – and a great deal of walking around the mean streets of Berlin – his first novel, March Violets, was published in 1989 and introduced the world to Bernie Gunther. ‘I loved Berlin before the wall came down; I’m pretty fond of the place now, but back then it was perhaps the most atmospheric city on earth. Having a dark, not to say black sense of humour myself, it’s always been somewhere I feel very comfortable.’ Having left advertising behind, Kerr worked for the London Evening Standard and produced two more novels featuring Bernie Gunther: The Pale Criminal (1990) and A German Requiem (1991). These were published as an omnibus edition, Berlin Noir in 1992. Thinking he might like to write something else, he did and published a host of other novels before returning to Bernie Gunther after a gap of sixteen years, with The One from the Other(2007). Says Kerr, ‘I never intended to leave such a large gap between Book 3 and Book 4; a lot of other stuff just got in the way; and I feel kind of lucky that people are still as interested in this guy as I am. If anything I’m more interested in him now than I was back in the day.’ Two more novels followed, A Quiet Flame (2008) and If the Dead Rise Not (2009). Field Gray (2010) is perhaps his most ambitious novel yet that features Bernie Gunther. Crossing a span of more than twenty years, it takes Bernie from Cuba, to New York, to Landsberg Prison in Germany where he vividly describes a story that covers his time in Paris, Toulouse, Minsk, Konigsberg, and his life as a German POW in Soviet Russia. The next novels in the series are Prague Fatale (2011);  A Man Without Breath (2013); The Lady from Zagreb (2015); The Other Side of Silence (2016); and Prussian Blue (2017). Greeks Bearing Gifts (Bernie Gunther # 13).is due to be released on 3 April 2018. ‘I don’t know how long I can keep doing them; I’ll probably write one too many; but I don’t feel that’s happened yet.’ As P.B.Kerr Kerr is also the author of the popular ‘Children of the Lamp’ series. Sadly, Phillip Kerr passed away yesterday 23 March 2018 at 62, from cancer. May he rest in peace. 

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books (2017), by Martin Edwards

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British Library, 2017. Format: Kindle edition. File size: 500.0 KB. Print length: 357 pages. ASIN: B076KQ2BV5

story-of-classic-crime-in-100-books-martin-edwards-book-review-coverProduct details: The main aim of detective stories is to entertain, but the best cast a light on human behaviour, and display both literary ambition and accomplishment. Even unpretentious detective stories, written for unashamedly commercial reasons, can give us clues to the past, and give us insight into a long-vanished world that, for all its imperfections, continues to fascinate. This book, written by award-winning crime writer and president of the Detection Club, Martin Edwards, serves as a companion to the British Library’s internationally acclaimed series of Crime Classics. Long-forgotten stories republished in the series have won a devoted new readership, with several titles entering the bestseller charts and sales outstripping those of highly acclaimed contemporary thrillers.

My take: The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books is a real gem that should have a privileged place on the bookshelves of any crime fiction aficionado. It tells the story of crime fiction during the first half of the twentieth century. As the author himself points out in his Introduction ‘the diversity of this much loved genre is breathtaking and so much greater than many critics have suggested. To illustrate this, I [Martin Edwards ] have chosen one hundred examples of books which highlight the achievements, and sometimes the limitations, of popular fiction of that era.’ It is therefore a reference book for all those who would like to initiate themselves in the reading of our favourite genre and for those enthusiasts, like myself, who wish to extend the scope of their knowledge. It also serves as a companion to the British Library’s series of Crime Classics. From the outset, Edwards wants to make it abundantly clear that ‘the main aim of detective stories is to entertain, but the best cast a light on human behaviour, and display both literary ambition and accomplishment.’ And there is another reason. ‘Even unpretentious detective stories, written for unashamedly commercial reasons, can give us clues to the past and give us insight into a long-vanished world that, for all its imperfections, continues to fascinate.’ For the purpose of this book, Edwards definition of ‘crime classic’ is a ‘novel or story collection published between 1901 and 1950. The British Library’s spans a slightly longer time frame but for the present purposes it makes sense to concentrate on the first half of the last century.’ And Edwards continues in the following terms: ‘My choice of books reflect a wish to present the genre’s development in an accessible, informative, and engaging way.’ For the purpose of a book of this characteristics, Edwards uses interchangeably the terms ‘detective stories’, ‘crime stories’ and ‘mysteries’ whose distinctions seems to him futile or even pedantic.  To conclude saying that he has not attempted to list the ‘best’ books of the period, nor is this even a selection of his own favourites. The clue of this book, as suggested in its title, is to tell a story. and he hopes that his references to scores of other books will encourage further investigations on the part of the readers. Regardless all the above, Edwards provides us the following attempt to define crime fiction:

A precise and truly satisfactory definition of the crime fiction genre continues to prove elusive, but it is safe to say that it encompasses stories in which the focus is not on the detective or on the process of detection but rather on the behaviour and psychology of the criminal.

From my side I would like to add that this book has helped me to eliminate some  misconceptions, stereotypes and prejudices that I had about some of the writers of this epoch and it has help me to discover a new world of authors and themes I was completely unaware of. It’s of interest to stress that quite a number of popular films of the time were based on some of these novels.

And, to conclude, a first paragraph I’m sure will whet your appetite:

‘It was not until several weeks after he had decided to murder his wife that Dr. Bickleigh took active steps in the matter. Murder is a serious business. The slightest mistake may be disastrous. Dr. Bickleigh had no intention of risking disaster.’ (Malice Aforethought by Francis Iles, 1931)

About the author: Martin Edwards, the current Chair of the CWA, has won the Edgar, Agatha, Macavity, and Poirot awards in the USA, and the CWA Short Story Dagger, CWA Margery Allingham Prize, and the H.R.F. Keating award in the UK. His latest Lake District Mystery is The Dungeon House. The series began with The Coffin Trail (shortlisted for the Theakston’s prize for best British crime novel) and includes The Arsenic Labyrinth(shortlisted for the Lakeland Book of the Year award). He has written eight novels about Liverpool lawyer Harry Devlin, starting with All the Lonely People; (shortlisted for the John Creasey Memorial Dagger); they are now available again as e-books.

The author of over 60 short stories, he has also edited 35 anthologies and published ten non-fiction books, including a study of crime scene investigation techniques and real life cases. A well-known critic and writer about the crime fiction genre, past and present, with The Golden Age of Murder exemplifying his knowledge of crime fiction and its authors in the 1920s and 1930s, Martin is President and Archivist of the world-famous Detection Club. He is also series consultant to British Library’s highly successful series of crime classics; his latest book is a companion to the series, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books. Martin is currently also  Archivist of the Crime Writers’ Association and editor of its annual anthology. (Source: CWA)

My rating: Since this is not a work of fiction, I’m not going to give this book any rating, but needless to say that I strongly recommend it.

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books has been reviewed at Crime Time, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, crossexaminingcrime, crimepieces, Cleopatra Loves Books, Books to the Ceiling, Tipping my Fedora, Noah’s Archives, Euro Crime, Lesa’s Book Critiques, The Rap Sheet, FictionFan’s Book Reviews,  My Reader’s Block, and Pretty Sinister Books., among others.

British Library publicity page

Poisoned Pen publicity page

GUEST POST: Martin Edwards, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books 

Martin Edwards & the Best Crime Books

La historia de los clásicos del crimen en 100 libros (2017), de Martin Edwards

Detalles del producto: El principal propósito de las historias de detectives es entretener, pero las mejores arrojan luz sobre el comportamiento humano y muestran tanto ambición literaria como éxito. Incluso las historias de detectives más modestas, escritas por razones descaradamente comerciales, pueden darnos pistas sobre el pasado y darnos una idea de un mundo hace mucho tiempo desaparecido que, a pesar de todas sus imperfecciones, nos continúa fascinando. Este libro, escrito por el galardonado escritor de crímenes y presidente del Detection Club, Martin Edwards, sirve como acompañamiento de la aclamada serie de Crime Classics de la Biblioteca Británica. Historias durante mucho tiempo olvidadas reeditadas en la serie han ganado un nuevo público de devotos, con varios títulos entrando en las listas de los libros más vendidos, superando a algunos de los thrillers contemporáneos más reconocidos.

Mi opinión: La historia de los clásicos del crimen en 100 libros es una verdadera joya que debería tener un lugar privilegiado en las estanterías de cualquier aficionado a la novela criminal. Cuenta la historia de la novela criminal durante la primera mitad del siglo XX. Como el propio autor señala en su Introducción, “la diversidad de este género tan querido es impresionante y mucho mayor de lo que muchos críticos han sugerido. Para ilustrar esto, yo [Martin Edwards] he elegido cien ejemplos de libros que destacan los logros y, a veces, las limitaciones de la novela popular de esa época.” Es, por lo tanto, un libro de referencia para todos aquellos que deseen iniciarse en la lectura de nuestro género favorito y para aquellos entusiastas, como yo, que desean ampliar el campo de su conocimiento. También sirve para acompañar la serie de Crime Classics de la Biblioteca Británica. Desde el comienzo, Edwards quiere dejar muy claro que “el objetivo principal de las historias de detectives es entretener, pero las mejores arrojan luz sobre el comportamiento humano, y muestran  ambición y logros literarios.” Y hay otra razón. “Incluso las historias de detectives sin pretensiones, escritas por razones descaradamente comerciales, pueden proporcionarnos pistas sobre el pasado y darnos una idea de un mundo desaparecido hace mucho tiempo que, a pesar de todas sus imperfecciones, nos continúa fascinando.” Para los propósitos de este libro, la definición de Edwards de ‘crimen clásico’ es una “novela o colección de cuentos publicados entre 1901 y 1950. La Biblioteca Británica abarca un marco de tiempo ligeramente más amplio, pero para el propósito presente tiene sentido concentrarse en la primera mitad del siglo pasado.’ Y Edwards continúa en los siguientes términos: “Mi elección de libros refleja el deseo de presentar el desarrollo del género de una manera accesible, informativa y atractiva.” Para el propósito de un libro de estas características, Edwards usa indistintamente los términos “historias de detectives”, “historias  criminales” y “misterios” cuyas distinciones le parecen inútiles e incluso pedantes. Para concluir, dice que no ha intentado enumerar los “mejores” libros de la época, ni es una selección de sus favoritos. La clave de este libro, como se sugiere en su título, es contar una historia. y espera que sus referencias a decenas de libros aliente nuevas investigaciones por parte de los lectores. Independientemente de todo lo anterior, Edwards nos proporciona el siguiente intento de definir novela criminal:

Una definición precisa y verdaderamente satisfactoria del género de novela criminal sigue siendo difícil de conseguir, pero puede afirmarse con seguridad que abarca historias en las que el foco no está en el detective o en el proceso de detención, sino más bien en el comportamiento y en la psicología del criminal.

Por mi parte, me gustaría añadir que este libro me ha ayudado a eliminar algunos conceptos erróneos, estereotipos y prejuicios que tenía sobre algunos de los escritores de esta época y me ha descubierto un nuevo mundo de autores y temas que desconocía por completo. Es interesante destacar que un buen número de películas populares de la época se basaron en algunas de estas novelas.

Y, para concluir, un primer párrafo, que estoy seguro, despertará su apetito:

“No fue hasta algunas semanas después de haberse decidido a matar a su mujer que el Dr. Bickleigh adoptó las medidas necesaias al respecto. El asesinato es un asunto serio. El más mínimo error puede ser desastroso. El Dr. Bickleigh no tenía la intención de arriesgarse a un fracaso. “(Malice Aforethought, de Francis Iles, 1931)

Sobre el autor: Martin Edwards, actual presidente de la CWA, ha ganado los premios Edgar, Agatha, Macavity y Poirot en los Estados Unidos, y la CWA Short Story Dagger, la CWA Margery Allingham Prize, y el premio H.R.F. Keating en el Reino Unido. Su último misterio en el Lake District es The Dungeon House. La serie comenzó con The Coffin Trail (finalista al premio Theakston a la mejor novela negra británica) e incluye The Arsenic Labyrinth (finalista al premio Lakeland Book of the Year). Ha escrito ocho novelas sobre el abogado de Liverpool Harry Devlin, que empezó con All the Lonely People; (finalista al John Creasey Memorial Dagger); disponibles ahora de nuevo en formato electrónico.

Autor de más de 60 cuentos, también ha editado 35 antologías y ha publicado diez libros de no ficción, incluido un estudio de técnicas de investigación de escenarios criminales y de casos tomados de la vida real. Reconocido crítico y escritor sobre el pasado y el presente del género criminal, con La edad de oro del asesinato ilunstra sus conocimientos sobre novela criminal y sobre los autores de las  décadas de 1920 y 1930, Martin es presidente y encargado del archivo del mundialmente famoso Detection Club. También es el asesor de la exitosa serie de clásicos del crimen de la Biblioteca Británica  su último libro es un complemento de la serie: La historia de los clásicos del crimen en 100 libros. Martin es también en la actualidad encargado del archivo de la Crime Writers ‘Association y editor de su anuario. (Fuente: CWA)

Mi valoración: Dado que no es un trabajo de ficción, no le voy a dar ninguna valoración a este libro, pero no hace falta decir que lo recomiendo encarecidamente.

Review: Even the Dead, 2015 (Quirke #7) by Benjamin Black

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Penguin Books, 2016. Format: Paperback. 272 pages. First published by Viking, 2015. ISBN: 978-0-241-19735-6.

cover.jpg.rendition.460.707Synopsis: Pathologist Quirke works in the city morgue, watching over Dublin’s dead. The latest to join their ghostly ranks is a suicide. But something doesn’t add up. The victim has a suspicious head wound, and the only witness has vanished, every trace of her wiped away. On the trail of the missing woman, Quirke finds himself drawn into the shadowy world of Dublin’s elite – secret societies, High Church politics and corrupt politicians. It leads him to a long-buried conspiracy that involves his own family. But it’s too late to go back now…

My take: As a result of a car crash that took place at night, a car goes into flames and the young man that was driving it loses his life. The police believe that it is a clear case of suicide, but the post-mortem conducted by David Sinclair, temporarily in charge of the pathologist department at the Holy Family Hospital, casts some doubts. Sinclair, then, decides to consult with Dr Quirke who has been on sick leave for several months. This time Quirke drinking problems are not the main cause of his worries, but some hallucinations and occasional  blank episodes. Dr, Philbin, his neurologist, has given him his assurance that it is not related with any brain tumour in accordance with the X-ray tests conducted. His best guess is that Quirke’s momentary memory losses are probably caused by an old lesion on his temporal lobe

In any case, Quirke does concur with his assistant that the contusion on the skull of the young man’s body might suggest that he was unconscious when he embedded his car against the tree, which may imply that his death had been caused, in all likelihood, by a third person or persons. Without further delay, Quirke reports Inspector Hackett of his suspicions and thus the investigation begins.

The young man in question turned out to have been Leon Corless a bright civil servant with a promising career ahead. The only son of Sam Corless. a political activists of radical leftist ideas. Both father and son got along well, even though the son did not share his father’s political views. The investigation gets complicated when a young woman who happened to have been an eyewitnesses of the car accident, disappears without trace. And, once again, Quirke finds himself dragged into the dark underworld of Dublin’s ruling establishment, including some of the members in the upper echelons of the Church and the State.

After having read the first four books in the series following its chronological order and having watched the first three episodes broadcasted on TV so far, I was quite impatient to find out how the series would continue. This may explain why I have skipped the two previous instalments, though I’m looking forward to reading them shortly. In any case, this is to suggest that any potential readers of this book should read initially at least the first one in the series for a better understanding of this one.

There are two passages that, in my view, better describe the main topics addressed in this novel. To the question of why was Quirke following the trail of a young woman that in all likelihood do not wished to be found, he answers himself:

What drove him, he believed, was the absence of a past. When he looked back, when he tried to look back, to his earliest days, there was only a blank space. He didn’t know who he was, where he came from, who had fathered him, who his mother had been. He could almost see himself, a child standing alone in the midst of a vast, bare plain, with nothing behind him but darkness and storm. And so he was here, on the trail of another lost creature.

And later on, when Quirke asks Mal what it feels like at knowing that one has only a few months of life left? Mal replies:

‘It’s like discovering that all along you’ve been walking on a tightrope, and suddenly the end of the rope is in sight. You want to get off, but you can’t stop or retrace your steps, you just have to go on, until you can’t go on any further. Simple as that.’

That said, it should be noted that even if there’s a crime and an investigation, I don’t consider this book to be a detective fiction, not even a crime fiction story, in a narrowed sense of the term, and it would be better described as a noir story. The plot itself doesn’t play a significant role, and the action is clearly character driven. As the rest of the books in the series, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading this book mainly for Black/Banville ability to reconstruct and capture the dark atmosphere of Dublin in the 50s.

If you allow me the pedantry, there is a reference. in the synopsis, to ‘High Church’ which, in my opinion, is incorrect. The term ‘High Church’ should refer to the part of the Anglican Church that is most similar to the Roman Catholic Church in its beliefs and practices, and this is not the meaning given in the synopsis.

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

About the author: Benjamin Black is the pen name of acclaimed author John Banville, who was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He is the author of fifteen novels, including The Sea, which won the 2005 Man Booker Prize. In 2013 he was awarded the Irish PEN Award for Outstanding Achievement in Irish Literature, and in 2014 the Quirke novels were adapted into a major BBC TV series. Even the Dead is the seventh book in the acclaimed Quirke series. Banville used the pseudonym Benjamin Black for his crime series about a Dublin pathologist in the 1950s: Christine Falls (2006), The Silver Swan (2007), Elegy for April (2010), A Death in Summer (2011), Vengeance (2012), Holy Orders (2013), and Even the Dead (2015). Other Benjamin Black books include The Black-Eyed Blonde (2014), which features Raymond Chandler’s fictional private detective Philip Marlowe, and the historical crime novel Wolf on a String (2017). Banville also wrote such nonfiction works as Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir (2016).

Even the Dead has been reviewed at Crime Thriller Girl, Crime Time, FictionFan’s Book Reviews, Seeing the World Through Books, and at CrimeBookJunkie, among others.

Penguin UK publicity page

Macmillan publishers US publicity page

Benjamin Black official website 

Q&A with Benjamin Black 

audiobook sample

Las sombras de Quirke (Quirke 7), de Benjamin Black

Sinopsis: El patólogo Quirke trabaja en el depósito de cadáveres de la ciudad velando a los muertos de Dublín. El último en incorporarse a sus fantasmales hileras es un suicida. Pero algo no cuadra. La víctima tiene una herida sospechosa en la cabeza, y el único testigo se ha desvanecido, todo rastro de ella eliminado. Tras la pista de la mujer desaparecida, Quirke se ve atrapado en el tenebroso mundo de las élites de Dublín: sociedades secretas, intrigas de las altas jerarquías eclesiásticas y políticos corruptos. Lo que le conduce hasta una conspiración oculta desde hace tiempo que implica a su propia familia. Pero ya es demasiado tarde para volver atrás ahora …

Mi opinión: Como resultado de un accidente automovilístico ocurrido durante la noche, un automóvil se incendia y el joven que lo conducía pierde la vida. La policía cree que es un caso claro de suicidio, pero la autopsia realizada por David Sinclair, que está temporalmente a cargo del departamento de patología del Holy Family Hospital, arroja algunas dudas. Sinclair, entonces, decide consultar con el Dr. Quirke, que ha estado de baja por enfermedad durante varios meses. Esta vez, los problemas de bebida de Quirke no son la causa principal de sus preocupaciones, sino algunas alucinaciones y episodios en blanco ocasionales. El Dr. Philbin, su neurólogo, le ha asegurado que no está relacionado con ningún tumor cerebral de acuerdo con las pruebas de rayos X realizadas. Su mejor suposición es que las pérdidas momentáneas de memoria de Quirke probablemente sean causadas por una vieja lesión en su lóbulo temporal.

En cualquier caso, Quirke coincide con su asistente en que la contusión en el cráneo del cuerpo del joven podría sugerir que estaba inconsciente cuando incrustó su auto contra el árbol, lo que puede implicar que su muerte fue causada, con toda probabilidad, por una tercera persona o personas. Sin más demora, Quirke informa al inspector Hackett de sus sospechas y así comienza la investigación.

El joven en cuestión resultó ser Leon Corless, un brillante funcionario con una prometedora carrera por delante. El único hijo de Sam Corless. un activista político de ideas izquierdistas radicales. Tanto el padre como el hijo se llevaban bien, aunque el hijo no compartía las opiniones políticas de su padre. La investigación se complica cuando una joven que resultó ser testigo presencial del accidente automovilístico desaparece sin dejar rastro. Y, una vez más, Quirke se ve arrastrado al oscuro submundo de la élite gobernante de Dublín, incluidos algunos de los miembros en las más altas esferas de la Iglesia y del Estado.

Hay dos pasajes que, en mi opinión, mejor describen los principales temas tratados en esta novela. A la pregunta de por qué Quirke seguía el rastro de una mujer joven que con toda probabilidad no deseaba ser encontrada, se responde a sí mismo:

Lo que lo impulsaba, creía él, era la ausencia de pasado. Cuando miraba hacia atrás, cuando trataba de mirar atrás, a sus primeros días, solo había un espacio en blanco. No sabía quién era, de dónde venía, quién lo había engendrado, quién había sido su madre. Casi podía verse a sí mismo, un niño solo parado en medio de una vasta llanura desnuda, con nada tras ´´el excepto oscuridad y confusión. Y  así era como se encontraba él aquí, tras el rastro de otra criatura perdida.

Y más tarde, cuando Quirke le pregunta a Mal qué siente al saber que a uno le quedan solo unos pocos meses de vida. Mal le responde:

“Es como descubrir que todo el tiempo has estado caminando sobre una cuerda floja, y de repente el final de la cuerda está a la vista. Deseas bajarte, pero no te puedes detener ni regresar sobre tus pasos, simplemente tienes que continuar, hasta que no puedas seguir más. Así de simple.”

Dicho esto, cabe señalar que incluso si hay un crimen y una investigación, no considero que este libro sea una novela de detectives, ni siquiera que sea una ficción criminal, en un sentido restringido del término, y sería mejor describirlo como una novela negra (noir). La trama en sí no juega un papel importante, y la acción está claramente dirigida por los personajes. Como el resto de los libros de la serie, he disfrutado mucho leyendo esta novela sobre todo por la capacidad de Black / Banville de reconstruir y capturar la atmósfera sombría de Dublín en los años 50.

Si me permiten la pedantería, hay una referencia. en la sinopsis, a ‘High Church’ que, en mi opinión, es incorrecta. El término ‘High Church’ debe referirse a la parte de la Iglesia Anglicana que es más similar a la Iglesia Católica Romana en sus creencias y prácticas, y este no es el significado dado en la sinopsis.

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Benjamin Black es el seudónimo del aclamado autor John Banville, nacido en Wexford, Irlanda, en 1945. Es autor de más de veinte novelas, entre ellas The Sea, que ganó el Man Booker Prize en el 2005. En el 2013 fue galardonado con el Premio PEN de Irlanda por sus Excelentes Logros en la Literatura Irlandesa. En el año 2007 apareció su primer libro bajo el seudónimo de Benjamin Black: El secreto de Christine. Serie que escribe con una prosa más ligera y directa, pero igual de exquisita y que cosechó gran éxito de público y crítica, con títulos como El otro nombre de Laura (2008), En busca de April (2011), Muerte en verano (2012), Venganza (2013) Órdenes sagradas (2013) y Las sombras de Quirke (2015)-

Las sombras de Quirke ha estado reseñada en Calibre.38, entre otros.

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