When a brilliant author turns his hand to genre fiction, the result is often disappointing at best. The writer’s motivation may have been simply to make a quick buck, and that inevitably shows. However, when every ounce of the writer’s talent is poured into the work, treating a mystery or a science fiction story as merely another mode of expression, the upshot can be startlingly good. That’s the case with Christine Falls, the first in a series of mystery novels featuring a Dublin pathologist named Quirke.

The woman whose name is on the cover of this engrossing tale of murder, betrayal, and corruption on high has arrived in Quirke’s morgue, deemed a suicide by the police. When Quirke comes across his brother-in-law, Malachy Griffin, doctoring the records of the young woman’s death, he develops an irresistible urge to examine the case more closely. Naturally, he finds that the reason for the woman’s death was anything but suicide. Pursuing the investigation out of sheer stubbornness and curiosity despite warnings from all quarters to leave it alone, Quirke soon finds himself in jeopardy for his life. As he approaches ever more closely to an understanding of a mysterious scheme involving the Catholic hierarchy and high society both in Ireland and in Boston as well as members of his own family, the stakes continue to rise.

Christine Falls (Quirke #1) by Benjamin Black @@@@@ (5 out of 5)

Christine Falls is an eminently worthy debut for the Quirke series. I previously reviewed the second in the series, The Silver Swan. And, yes, of course I wish I’d read them in the proper order. Nonetheless, even knowing in advance how the case would be resolved, I found Christine Falls thoroughly enjoyable.

John Banville, aka Benjamin Black, is an award-winning Irish author whose distinctions include the Booker Prize. He is reputedly often mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Banville writes the Quirke series of crime novels — four of them to date, themselves frequent award contenders — under the pseudonym Benjamin Black.

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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