An ad in the New York Times book review section led me to Elegy for April, the third book in a series by Benjamin Black (pen name of Irish writer John Banville). Set in 1950s Dublin, the series features a medical examiner named Quirke with the not-unfamiliar Irish malady of drunkenness. Elegy focuses on the disappearance of April Latimer, a surgeon in training and friend of Quirke’s biological daughter, Phoebe.
The story proceeds in a leisurely fashion. Friends are concerned, but not quite concerned enough. Phoebe is worried, but then begins to suspect that April kept things from her… perhaps she has just gone away for a bit? The Latimers – well-connected, moneyed, and with a family reputation to burnish – have all but banished April and beseech Quirke to let sleeping dogs lie.
Romance gone wrong threads throughout the mystery, as does the faint air of unreality. Incest and obsession are revealed to be at the heart of April’s disappearance. Dead, from a self-induced abortion, and her body buried by her brother. But where? He kills himself (in Quirke’s expensive, uninsured new auto) and never says. Meanwhile, the reader knows that someone – a slight someone – has been hanging about outside Phoebe’s apartment. Is it April? Perhaps she is not dead, after all. Or friend/reporter Jimmy Minor, a tiny guy with a sunny smile, convinced that Phoebe knows more than she is saying about April, and hanging about, looking for a scoop? We don’t know. And it’s driving me crazy.
I re-read the last 25 pages of the book. Nope, nothing more is revealed. I Google reviews. They are as unrevealing as the blurb on the book jacket. I visit the author’s website. Nada. Am I supremely dunce-like? Help would be appreciated.
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