Sunday, September 9, 2012
VENGEANCE by Benjamin Black
So happy to have just learned that Man Booker Prize winner John Banville (who writes under the pseudonym Benjamin Black) will write a new Philip Marlowe novel to be published next year. Yes, in an agreement with the estate of Marlowe’s creator Raymond Chandler Banville aka Black will reprise the fellow who has been called the hardest of hard-boiled private detectives.
While I have to wait until next year for that I’m now savoring the pleasure found in Vengeance, the fifth novel in Black’s popular Quirke series. Quirke, consultant pathologist at the Hospital of the Holy Family, is a far cry from Marlowe but every bit as fascinating. He drinks far too much, easily beds women when so inclined, isn’t much of a father but when Inspector Hackett has a case making him feel “like a monkey with a coconut and no stone to crack it on.” he turns to Quirke. And the pathologist is easy to find - “perched at the bar in his usual spot....a glass of Jameson’s at his elbow.”
The case that so puzzles Hackett involves the death, an apparent suicide, of Victor Delahaye. If it was suicide it was surely an odd way to go about it. Delahaye, an accomplished sailor, takes Davy Clancy, the son of his business partner, out for a sail. Davy dislikes water but believed he could not reject Delahaye’s invitation. After going out a fair way and engaging in very little conversation save for a story about how his father thought to teach him self-reliance, Delahaye pulls out a pistol and shoots himself. Knowing absolutely nothing about boats Davy is left at sea in more ways than one.
Delahaye’s suicide is a conundrum for all as his garage business is doing well, he has recently married a young, beautiful woman, Mona, and is a well placed member of Dublin society. When Delahaye’s partner and Davy’s father, Jack, is also found dead it becomes clear that something is very much amiss, but what? It’s up to Hackett and Quirke to untangle the lies and deceit in which the Delahayes and Clancys have hidden themselves.
In addition to being a terrific whodunit Vengeance is gloriously atmospheric, rife with the sights and sounds of 1950s Dublin. It’s another winner for Benjamin Black!