A murder mystery from a master stylist

murder mysteryIf you pick up this book expecting to return to Dublin in the 1950s in the company of the pathologist-detective Quirke, as I did, you may find it disorienting to realize that you’re in contemporary New York City with a wholly new cast of characters.


The Lemur by Benjamin Black

@@@ (3 out of 5)


Quirke may not be in the picture in this short and tightly constructed murder mystery, but Benjamin Black’s trademark prose is abundant. I find it hard to resist a sentence like this one: “She was attending to her plate of greens with the long-necked, finical concentration of a heron at the water’s edge.” Or this one: “His memories of those days were all hazed over happily, as if he were looking back through a pane of glass that had been breathed on by someone who was laughing.”

The only problem with extraordinary flashes of style like these is that the author’s language sometimes overtakes the story. I become so mesmerized with the words themselves that their meaning can become blurred and the context disappear. With The Lemur, I discover as I write this review that I can’t remember much about the story, only that I enjoyed reading it!

For the record, however, as I learned upon skimming through bits and pieces of the book once again, The Lemur tells the tale of a novelist who has hired a researcher to assist him in preparing a biography his father-in-law has commissioned. The researcher, it turns out, is a lot more than the disdainful young misfit he appears to be. He is, in fact, an accomplished hacker, and in short order he turns up dead. This young man, Dylan Riley, is the lemur of the title for the resemblance his face bears to the animal. The protagonist, a transplanted Irish writer named John Glass, soon finds himself caught up in the ensuing complications of Riley’s murder. Naturally, Riley’s stepfather, the superrich “Big Bill” Mulholland, hovers near the center of the mystery.

Enough said.

For additional reading

I’ve reviewed all the novels published to date in this series at The Quirke series of Dublin crime novels from Benjamin Black.

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For an abundance of great mystery stories, go to Top 20 suspenseful detective novels (plus 200 more).

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