Christine Falls by Benjamin Black

I ran out and got this one from the library the minute I heard that Gabriel Byrne was going to be starring in the TV series, Quirke.  Benjamin Black is a pseudonym for a literary writer, John Banville.  The writing of this mystery definitely reflects the literary writing craft of Mr. Banville…a much more elegant style than the average genre novel.  That being said I definitely can appreciate  simplicity of sparse prose as well.

The book takes place in Ireland and in Boston with Quirke as a pathologist following up on a mysterious death of Christine Falls.  His adopted family via his brother, Mal, is wrapped up tightly in this mystery.  As the first book in a series, there is a great deal of explaining Quirke’s background and “family relations”.  As much as the writing was well done and the character of Quirke was interesting, the mystery fell flat.  Either Quirke was stupid or simply was being obtuse, but there is no way that he could be unaware of the Catholic Church and baby smuggling/orphanages, especially when he himself was plucked from one by the Judge.  The mortal danger that he put another character in through his seeming unawareness was just not to be believed.  Although perhaps we are to believe he is that dense, there seem to be many characters who hold him in disdain.

The book seemed more interested in making statements about “the evil Catholic Church” and “the 1950s repressive morals” than being a mystery. The ending falls completely flat.  The big “mystery” (which all the readers already figured out pages and pages before) is just  a “so what”?  This just didn’t work for me, however I am still interested to see how the TV series turns out.

 

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Rosemary and Crime by Gail Oust

 

This is the first in a new series with a Spice Shop Theme.  The protagonist, Piper, is a transplanted Yankee divorcee contending with an arrogant ex-husband, a moody teenage daughter, and opening a new business, into which she has poured all her money so  it must succeed.  She stumbles across a body of a fellow business owner and the mystery begins.  Piper is a good character, reminiscent of Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldy. In fact this book reminds me very much of the style of the Goldy Bear series, so if you enjoyed that there is a good chance that you will enjoy this one as well.

Usually in theme based cozies, I get concerned with the theme overwhelming the plot, but this is the first time where I think there could have been a bit more about the spices included here.  It doesn’t seem that there was anything said about them other than you need to restock and not have old spices.   Fans of culinary cozy mysteries usually expect a recipe or two or at least hints of some kind.

Other than that the characters were interesting, there was quite a bit of humor involved.  A slight love triangle seems to develop and Piper’s relationship with her husband seems to mature slightly.  The mystery included a variety of suspects and the reader follows along as Piper investigates in an attempt to clear herself.  The mystery was brought to a satisfying conclusion.  I will be reading the next one in this series