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by Benjamin Black, read by John Keating
Macmillan Audio, July 2011
Unabridged pages
ISBN: 1427212376

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Newspaper owner and wealthy Dubliner Richard Jewell is found with his head blown off. It looks like suicide but Detective Inspector Hackett has doubts. His friend and the medical examiner, Dr Quirke, insists that this is a case of murder. Then the characters interact gracefully and slowly with each other: Jewell's wife Francoise Dubonnet, his sister Donnie, and David Sinclair, Quirke's assistant. After much ado, the murderer is identified.

This is a very leisurely story, more of a social history than a murder mystery or a thriller. Very little happens, then there would be a violent and savage event, like an attack on Sinclair, and then little happens again. It feels as though the characters are simply going through the motions. They do not seem to care much about the murder themselves and as a result neither did this reader.

It was difficult, at first, to sort out the characters. Apparently this is one of a series of mysteries featuring Dr Quirke, but I found him rather diluted and not very well drawn. I had trouble believing that he really existed. Detective Inspector Hackett was bluff and no-nonsense, but he actually did not do much sleuthing. Francoise was languid and willowy and obviously not in love with her husband. Probably the most interesting characters were Sinclair who was young and more vigorous than his boss, and the victim's sister Dannie who seemed to have actually cared for her brother.

The atmosphere of Dublin in the fifties is rather musty. melancholic and in-grown. All of the main characters except Hackett move in the same circle. There is little sense of a wider and larger society. I did not get an especially vivid sense of Dublin or of the Irish countryside, and I suspect that these events could have happened almost anywhere.

The plot moved very slowly and the motives and reasons for actions were not clear until the startling and, to me, quite surprising end. Perhaps this is a book that does not fare as well as an audiobook as it would if read. Whatever the reason, I found it interminable and feared it would never end.

Sally Fellows is a retired history teacher with an MA in history and an avid reader of mysteries.

Reviewed by Sally A. Fellows, August 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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