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.