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Elegy for April (Quirke Mysteries) Paperback – 3 Jun 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (3 Jun. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330509144
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330509145
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 192,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Quirke is an endearing hero and, as in the previous two novels in which he appears, the Dublin of the 1950s - wet, cold, foggy, sinister - is evoked with harsh realism and nostalgia... A beguiling read' --The Times

'It is Dublin itself, half hidden by fog, that is the novel's truly sinister force here, a city suffused with illicit desires and suppressed racial, religious and political tensions, and in whose dank, coiling shadows strangers all too easily lurk. Banville, whose supple, easy writing glitters here like frost, layers tension with unhasty stealth... this excellent novel feels like a requiem for a cursed city as much as anything, its inhabitants' inner lives doomed to remain as locked away, unhappy and unknowable as whatever lies buried in the fog' --Metro

'Set in 1950s Dublin, it opens in a vivid and ghostly echo of Bleak House, with the city shrouded in a muffled silence of fog . . . The novel is brimming with memorable characters . . . The pace of the story is perfectly controlled, with an incrementally tightening grip of tension, and the plot delivers enough unexpected turns to satisfy the genre's aficionados . . . The author also brings to the telling of the story all the qualities that we associate with him: a supreme ability to evoke time and place, astute psychological insight and an elegant and sophisticated crafting of language that is a constant source of pleasure. The imaginative richness of the language, however, is never indulgent or gratuitous and in a particularly disciplined way is always made subservient to the flow of the narrative. It allows him not only to unravel the central mystery of the missing woman but also to explore the delicate subtleties of a tentative parent-child relationship, the damaged Quirke's search for healing, and today, when some of Ireland's economic and spiritual secrets the seeds of a sour fruit are being increasingly released, the novel offers an uncompromising insight into the abuse of power . . . Ultimately, Elegy for April is a novel that transcends any limitation of genre or categorisation, stands supremely confident in its achievement and, to this reader at least, reveals itself as good enough to take its place with anything John Banville has ever written' --The Irish Times

'Black has returned to Fifties Dublin and the lovable, ursine pathologist Quirke, who is just out of rehab and investigating the disappearance of his daughter's doctor friend, April. As always, Black's Ireland is simultaneously drab and darkly dangerous, but as his fans (or those of his more rarefied alter ego John Banville) will expect, flinty humour lightens the darkness and diamond sharp prose puts the quotidian in a new light' --Daily Telegraph

'Elegy for April, the third crime novel by Benjamin Black (a.k.a. literary writer John Banville), is everything any mystery fan could want, and a lot more. This book is the best of the Blacks so far. It's also as good, or better, than any of Banville's mainstream works, including his Booker Prize-winner, The Sea. Black's elegantly elaborate prose takes Quirke along the byways of Dublin with bits of back story, side stories, old history and Dublin's secrets . . .This is a gorgeously written, beautifully constructed story that will remain with you long after the final page' --The Globe and Mail, Canada

'Engrossing... A suspenseful whodunit... his depiction of a fragile father-daughter relationship is as powerful as the unsettling truth behind April's disappearance' --Publisher's Weekly

'Gorgeously precise and expressive prose' --Guardian

'Both Black and Banville are equally serious and stylish, blackly or bleakly comic and wonderfully sly. . . Really sharp-eyed readers will notice that the dust jacket features an atmospheric photograph by Life magazine's Tony Linck of Bachelor's Walk, looking westward on a bright but foggy day in winter. There is, amongst other vehicles, a "sit up and beg" Ford Prefect in the foreground with a sleek Alvis alongside and some pedestrians on the pavement. In all kinds of absorbing ways, Elegy for April is a set of variations on that captivating photograph' --Irish Independent

'Another quirky and page-turning book from Banville/Black' --Irish Post

'The writing has an elegance and nimbleness that surpass almost all other genre fiction. Black evokes Dublin -- which he knows inside out -- with an almost bitter love, and his feeling for the city's class and religious divisions and its urgent, albeit repressed, sexual atmospheres helps his characters spring from the page . . . The feel of Elegy for April and indeed the other Benjamin Black stories owes much to Ross Macdonald, Raymond Chandler and Georges Simenon, great mystery writers of the period in which Banville has chosen to place his own excursions into genre . . . Elegy for April is filled with thematic gloom, yet the writing sparkles. John Banville, writing as John Banville, is a deep-dish writer, always dazzling, sometimes overwrought; when adopting the Benjamin Black persona, he relaxes, though the results, stylistically speaking, are no less striking' --LA Times

'It's a cold world of fog and rain, and every setting, barbed conversation, and psychological maze Black (John Banville) crafts is gripping in its moody beauty, lancing wit, and subtle turns of mind as Quirke weaves his way to the shocking truth, and Phoebe, once again, is brutally denied happiness. In Black's atmospheric and penetrating works of Irish noir, pain, prejudice, greed, and violence brew behind lace curtains' --Booklist

'This is an interesting and accurate take on mid-twentieth-century Ireland, a chilly place for cheerless people in a corrupt society . . . beautiful writing' --Literary Review

'It may be heresy to say so, but I almost prefer Benjamin Black's books to those of John Banville, the Booker Prize-winning author who uses the pseudonym Black when writing his crime novels which are set in Fifties Dublin and feature the pathologist Quirke . . . Black brings all the elegance and intellectual rigour of his literary output to this evocative crime series' --Daily Mail

'Full of the mood and flavour of 1950s Dublin'
--The Herald

Book Description

The third novel in the Quirke mysteries, now a major TV series starring Gabriel Byrne --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Banville undoubtedly writes beautifully and many a sentence causes me to pause to admire its beauty. But the finely-tuned prose almost gets in the way of story, character and atmosphere.

Quirke remains likeable, although a recent stay at a drying-out clinic has not cured his thirst for booze (white wine doesn't count as `a drink', according to Quirke; useful to know).

The plot seems perfunctory, almost irrelevant: a friend of Quirke's neurotic daughter Phoebe has gone missing and evidence at her flat suggests that this may be following an abortion. Her family, who have long disowned her, are important people -- her uncle a government minister -- with a family mythology to uphold. Quirke, brought up in an orphanage, is condescendingly dismissed as not understanding such things.
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In my opinion the best of the 'Quirk' tales. Deep, dark and intriguing. In Banville style. Almost every sentence is poetry, difficult to get through without re-reading and savouring delicious sentences and paragraphs.
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Quirke is back for his third outing and he's on top form. Perhaps there is a little more emotion from him and it's good to see his return to favour via his daughter. For followers of this series, the author doesn't let his readers down.

A girl vanishes, Quirke's daughter, Phoebe, asks for his help in trying to find her and like the bulldog (Phobe and other females suggest he's more like a bull!) he doesn't let go.

The darkness of 1950s Dublin is brought again into the story, the atmosphere in the city is, for some of us, very nostalgic. Life's pace is slow, somewhat improved by Quirke's purchase of an Alvis Roadster much to the dismay of cyclists and pedestrians alike.

But this small piece of humour is offset by the story of the girl. Quirke's investigation, alongside his very good friend, Inspector Hackett, brings him into conflict with a powerful Irish family, a government minister and a hard-nosed dowager-like matriarch each intent on preventing a bleak family history returning into the glare of the modern world.

The end is reached very slowly, actually but the side story of Quirke's life and times fills the book with an easy-to-enjoy step back into an almost forgotten time. The fog - or smog as I recall, the non-stop smoking, the heavy drinking, the badly handled liaisons with the opposite sex, all make for a book which is a joy to read, despite the fact that when the end is reached, the tragedy of lives lost is a sad reminder of what goes on behind closed doors.

I've already read (and reviewed book 4) so I guess it'll be a long wait for book 5 but I have the patience! Anyway, it seems Irish writers, rather like their Scandanavian counterparts are on the increase - 'Dublin Dead' is next on my list.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was my first Quirke (indeed, my first Banville), and perhaps for that reason, it took a while for the setting to establish itself in my mind's eye. But once I realised this was 1950s Dublin, all came into focus and began to make much more sense. Perhaps I should have started at the beginning.

Anyway, although I concede that the plot is rather gentle for this genre, at least for the 2013 reader, the writing is beautiful, far superior to that of most of the crime novels with which I spend my time, and Quirke is a pleasure to meet.

As long as you know you're getting a crime mystery, rather than a police procedural thriller, you won't be disappointed by this. A whole world is convincingly presented, and I'll certainly be heading back there soon ...
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'The Sea' is such a beautiful book that I was expecting great things from Banville's alter ego Benjamin Black. This book was on an Amazon offer so definitely worth a try but, when I'm reading a murder mystery type of book, I want it to be easy, pacy reading and this was not. Lovely writing of course but it seemed to be swathes of characters' thought processes and scenery with brief explosions of 'action' in the form of sudden revelations of information pertinent to April's demise. I found myself skipping through looking for these, determined to find something to enjoy but failing. I think I approached it in the wrong way, expecting a thriller and getting something else entirely!
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Format: Paperback
"It was the worst of winter weather, and April Latimer was missing.
"For days a February fog had been down and showed no sigh of lifting. In the muffled silence the city seemed bewildered...."

The opening lines of ELEGY FOR APRIL by Benjamin Black sets the tone for the book. It is a very good book, not a mystery in the strictest sense and not a thriller either. From the beginning, we know that April has come to some harm and Black weaves a story that draws the reader in, waiting.

As with the previous two books, CHRISTINE FALLS and THE SILVER SWAN, the focus of the book is a young woman who has stepped away from the accepted path for women in 1950's Dublin. But, like the previous two books, the focus of the story is Quirke, the tormented adopted son of Judge Garret Griffin, the distanced adopted brother of Malachy Griffin, and the dominant male figure in the life of Phoebe. The relationships are very complicated and the reader will likely benefit from reading CHRISTINE FALLS first.

Phoebe comes to Quirke because she is worried about her friend, April Latimer, a junior doctor, whom she hasn't heard from for over a week. Everyone tells Phoebe that she is letting her imagination take over, that she should wait, that April is probably gone away with a boyfriend. But Phoebe is insistent; she talks to April everyday and Phoebe is convinced that April's silence is not willfully done.

Quirke agrees to ask some questions and calls upon his friend, Inspector Hackett, to look into April's life. She has been estranged from her family for a long time and her only friends seem to be Phoebe and Isabel, an actress, Jimmy Miner, a newspaper reporter, and Patrick Ojukwu, a student at the College of Surgeons.
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