Tag Archives: Elegy for April

Benjamin Black’s Vengeance Quick Review – Audiobook update!

I’ve liked Benjamin Black – aka John Banville – and reviewed two of his books, Elegy for April and A Death in Summer.  Now comes his latest book, Vengeance, again featuring Dr. Quirke and his friend Detective Inspector Hackett, with a strong supporting role for Quirke’s daughter Phoebe.

As usual, Black’s prose is elegant, his characters multi-dimensional, and Quirke  has his typical rough appeal for beautiful women, falling into bed with somewhat more regret than forethought.  And just as you know that any woman involved with Lee Child’s Jack Reacher will likely be dead halfway through the book, you know that any woman involved with Quirke has a good chance of being up to no good.

The mystery for this Quirke outing hinges on the relationship between Ireland’s Delahaye and Clancy families.  They are ostensibly partners in a family business, but clearly the Delahayes have gotten the best of the deal.  As Black says, “A Clancy cannot say no to a Delahaye,” and that’s why young Davy Clancy agrees to go sailing with Victor Delahaye.   Delahaye’s motivation is less clear.  When out to sea, Delahaye produces a gun, tell Davy a long story about self-reliance, then shoots himself in the chest.  Why has he killed himself?  And why has he chosen his partner’s son to witness his suicide?  Enter Inspector Hackett, who as Black notes, “felt like a monkey with a coconut and no stone to crack it on.”  And from Hackett, to Quirke.

Of necessity, Vengeance has a lot of interconnected characters, many of whom are vaguely unpleasant, including Delahaye’s much-younger wife, Mona, and his twin sons, James and Jonas.  The stakes are raised for Quirke and Hackett when Delahaye’s business partner Jack Clancy goes missing, turning up dead two days later – like Delahaye, in his boat, but not a suicide.  Murder.

The book’s resolution comes through the untangling of the many relationships – some known, some hidden, and some misunderstood – between those in the two families.

Overall, Vengeance is worth reading for Black’s style, the characters, and the leisurely unraveling of the plot.  With not much at stake, the reader should feel comfortable taking the time to enjoy the experience.

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Want to experience the audiobook version of Vengeance?  It’s read by someone with an awesome Irish accent, evocative and yet still completely understandable.

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Who was haunting Phoebe Griffin?

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.