Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Holy Orders - Benjamin Black


The latest Quirke mystery shows Black on top form.  The last, Vengeance, was a bit of a dud as a mystery, albeit the quality of the writing was as superlative as ever.  This time the story is also up to the mark.  What at first sight is taken for the body of a naked boy is pulled out of the canal.  On closer inspection the body turns out to be an adult male, albeit a scrawny one.  Inevitably, the dead man ends up on Quirke's autopsy table.  "Jesus Christ," Quirke cries, "I know him."

And we're off.  All the regular characters are involved to a greater or lesser extent.  Hackett and Phoebe, of course;  Isabel, back from touring Ibsen to the provinces;  Malachy Griffin and Rose; and, omnipresent, the mystery and horror of Quirke's childhood, embodied in the present by the ghostly presence of the enigmatic Costigan.  There are new characters, some of whom I expect will return, notably the tinker king Packie the Pike.

Quirke has a new demon this time round.  He seems to be hallucinating.  We end with him about to receive his diagnosis.  I suspect I know what it is, having had something similar myself, so I certainly empathised wholeheartedly.  But I'll probably have to wait till next year to find out for sure.

Slowly but surely Banville/Black is building a classic canon.

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