March 27, 2016

Book Review: Benjamin Black's Even the Dead

This is one of those times that I'm really glad I didn't judge a book by its cover. The cover of Even the Dead looks vaguely goth-y to me, but the book isn't at all. It's the seventh novel in the Quirke series by Benjamin Black, and it quickly draws readers in--even readers new to the series. Quirke has been on leave from his pathology duties for two months, as he recuperates from a psychological semi-breakdown. Dublin is sweltering in the summer heat when a young man named Leon Corless dies in a fiery car crash. At first glance it seems like suicide, but Quirke's assistant pathologist is doubtful, and calls the big man back in to examine Corless's body.

After getting a glimpse, Quirke is drawn inexorably into the investigation. He and Inspector Hackett quickly discover that Corless had both a Communist father and a mysteriously vanished (and possibly pregnant) girlfriend. In looking into the death, Quirke is unwittingly bringing himself back into the orbit of an old foe, and potentially endangering those he loves most.

Reminiscent of the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear or Charles Todd's Ian Rutledge series, Even the Dead is a slow-paced, psychologically introspective mystery. Set in the close-minded, very Catholic milieu of 1950s Dublin, it's a glimpse into an era difficult to imagine now. Benjamin Black (a pseudonym of John Banville) has a gift for finely drawn characters and small details. And Quirke's undeniable eccentricity lends him an irresistible charm that will keep the reader engaged until the very end.

I want to try and find time to go back and read the earlier entries in the series! I'm all caught up on Maisie Dobbs (well, except for the latest one), and I kind of burned out on Ian Rutledge, so I'm interested to have a new, quiet series to read.

Have YOU read Benjamin Black?

I originally wrote most of this review for Shelf Awareness. And the image is an affiliate link, thanks for supporting Quirky Bookworm!