When Quirke finds his medical colleague, an obstetrician, at Quirke’s pathologist desk in the middle of the night with a file in his hand and the new corpse of a young woman in the autopsy room, he questions the man’s intents. When the reader learns that the colleague is also Quirke’s adopted brother and is married to the woman Quirke loves, the situation is more intriguing — even more so when one learns that the file and the body are gone by morning.
The woman, Christine Falls, has died in childbirth. Please ignore the fact that the file says she died of a pulmonary embolism. Soon after Quirke tracks down the woman who cared for her during her pregnancy, that woman is dead. Where is the child? Everyone, including his colleague Mal, seems to know more than they are saying.
Quirke is the classic anti-hero. An orphan, plucked out of the Dickensian orphanage by a wealthy and influential family, in middle age, he still fights the demons of his childhood. That his wife, the sister of the woman he loved, died in childbirth compounds his guilt and his struggle. Overfond of whiskey, forgettable women, and bar patrons, Quirke can’t seem to let go of Christine Falls and what became of her and her child. What will his relentless inquiries cost him?
Christine Falls is a tightly written, suspenseful drama that leaves the reader satisfied, but wanting more. The ending is like a classic film noir that leaves the reader questioning who knew what and when did they know it. Although this is Black’s debut effort at crime fiction, he is truly a natural. I, for one, hope this is not his only effort.
About Benjamin Black/John Banville
Benjamin Black is the pen name of acclaimed author John Banville. His recent novels include Shroud (2000), Eclipse (2002), and The Sea (2005), for which he won the Man Booker Prize. Mr. Banville lives in Dublin.