A bizarre suicide leads to a scandal and then still more blood, as one of our most brilliant crime novelists reveals a world where money and sex trump everything
It’s a fine day for a sail, and Victor Delahaye, one of Ireland’s most successful businessmen, takes his boat far out to sea. With him is his partner’s son—who becomes the sole witness when Delahaye produces a pistol, points it at his own chest, and fires.
This mysterious death immediately engages the attention of Detective Inspector Hackett, who in turn calls upon the services of his sometime partner Quirke, consultant pathologist at the Hospital of the Holy Family. The stakes are high: Delahaye’s prominence in business circles means that Hackett and Quirke must proceed very carefully. Among others, they interview Mona Delahaye, the dead man’s young and very beautiful wife; James and Jonas Delahaye, his identical twin sons; and Jack Clancy, his ambitious, womanizing partner. But then a second death occurs, this one even more shocking than the first, and quickly it becomes apparent that a terrible secret threatens to destroy the lives and reputations of several members of Dublin’s elite.
Why did Victor Delahaye kill himself, and who is intent upon wreaking vengeance on so many of those who knew him?
About Benjamin Black
Benjamin Black is the pen name of the Man Booker Prize-winning novelist John Banville. The author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed series of Quirke novels—Christine Falls, The Silver Swan, Elegy for April, and A Death in Summer—he lives in Dublin.
The prolific alter ego of the masterful, Booker Prize-winning novelist John Banville, Black takes it easy on himself and his readers with this fifth volume in a mystery series featuring the inscrutable Quirke, who is not a detective, but a pathologist and who here is less a protagonist than a supporting character. The plot’s riddle isn’t whodunit, but why. It entangles two families, headed by business partners who are the sons of business partners, though one of the families has long decidedly held the upper hand. Victor Delahaye, the dominant partner, takes a resistant Davy Clancy, son of the resentful secondary partner, out for a day’s sail. While in the middle of the sea, under a scorching sun, Victor proceeds to relate an inscrutable parable to Davy about growing up independent, then commits suicide by shooting himself in the chest, leaving a particularly bloody corpse. In some respects, this is surprisingly similar to the previous novel in the series (A Death in Summer, 2011), which also concerned a mysterious suicide by a financial magnate that leads to Quirke’s involvement with the widow. There really isn’t much action after that fatal first chapter, as Black explores the possible manipulations of a bunch of peculiar and suspicious characters. Did Victor’s womanizing partner (and Davy’s father) play a part in the death? How about his insidiously eerie twin sons (and the seductive girlfriend of one)? His promiscuous and much younger widow? His mentally unbalanced sister? Davy’s mother? Davy? Though the novel makes some fun of mystery novels that arrive at an impossibly neat resolution, moving its characters like chess pieces, the suspense here proceeds to a climax that untangles all loose ends. Along the way, there’s the pleasure of Black’s prose, of the “sudden sweet pang for the lost past, all those possibilities long gone, never to be offered again.” – Kirkus Reviews
Review: ‘Vengeance’ by Benjamin Black has little at stake
The Chicago Tribune Book Review – August 5, 2012 (Excerpt)
I’ve always been a little suspicious of Benjamin Black. Or, more precisely, of the “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” aspect of his identity. Black, after all, is that most unwieldy type of pseudonym, the pseudonym everybody knows. Created by Man Booker Prize-winning Irish writer John Banville in 2007 for his first crime novel, “Christine Falls,” he himself is a fictional character — except not really, since Banville has never fleshed him out.
Black’s bio is Banville’s bio, his face Banville’s face. There are good reasons to invent a literary alter ego: Stephen King did so with Richard Bachman because he was writing too much to publish under his name alone, and Donald Westlake developed Richard Stark to distinguish his darkly existential Parker books from the lighter crime novels for which he was known. Banville, however, has never really made an equivalent case.
Yes, his own novels are slow, word-drenched stories in which plot is secondary to the flow of language, while his work as Black, composed more quickly, is driven by narrative. Still, despite his contention that “Benjamin Black and John Banville are two entirely different writers,” I can’t help feeling a contrivance at work here, as if in the creation of a public pen name, Banville is trying to have it both ways. [Read the full article...]
Not the Death, but the Details - ‘Vengeance,’ a New Novel by Benjamin Black
The New York Times Book Review – August 13, 2012 (Excerpt)
When John Banville inaugurated his pseudonymous series of Benjamin Black books in 2007 with “Christine Falls,” this esteemed author seemed to have taken an iffy turn. The Banville name would be reserved for literary fiction (like “The Sea,” winner of the Man Booker Prize); Benjamin Black would swim in the supposedly shallower waters of the whodunit. The Black books were said to be much more casually and quickly written than the serious ones. Mr. Banville would have no trouble keeping his august reputation and his day job.
But things have not worked out exactly as planned. The Black books have been lovely and luminous, to the point of almost eclipsing Mr. Banville’s primary oeuvre. And the two careers have run closely parallel at times. Benjamin Black’s current “Vengeance” will be followed in only two months by the latest Banville work, “Ancient Light.”
To make his situation even more complicated, Mr. Banville has now, at the behest of the Raymond Chandler estate, signed on for a third persona: that of the guy who will reanimate Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, regardless of whether that “Big Sleep” author needs resuscitation. On the evidence of the alluring but not terribly surprising “Vengeance,” Mr. Banville risks stretching himself a bit thin. [Read the full article...]
DOODLEBUGS & SPITFIRES
Memories and Short Stories by Peter Carroll
“Doodlebugs & Spitfires” is a delightful collection of memories and short stories written by Peter Carroll, the author of “Queen of Misfortune,” in his trademark poetic and profoundly thoughtful style.
Most of his stories, previously published in limited form in local English newspapers and magazines, like “Brave New World”, “The Forties Street Tradesmen”, “Doodlebugs”, or “The Christmas of 43” evolve around his childhood in the Northern part of London during and after World War II. He describes the horrors that came with the V1 flying bombs, nicknamed the “Doodlebugs.” Heroic British pilots in their “Spitfire” airplanes would attempt to divert the flying bombs from the populated areas, sometimes successful, and sometimes not.
Doodlebugs & Spitfires is available at Amazon.Com and its Kindle store, Amazon.co.uk and its Kindle store, Barnes & Noble, and any other good bookstore.