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Crime and Banishment,
This review is from: The Book of Evidence (Paperback)
Banville's book is a deeply unpleasant read, not because it's badly written, but because it is narrated in the first-person by a deeply unpleasant character.
The plot of the book seems drawn from the real-life story of Irish socialite killer Macolm McArthur, an allusion to whom may have influenced Banville in his choice of 'Montgomery' as the surname for his central character (McArthur...Montgomery... geddit?).
Many have compared this book to the Russian classic 'Crime and Punishment', however the parallels between both books seem almost as mirror negatives of each other; whereas Raskolnikov's crime is planned and measured, Montgomery's actions are impulsive and improvised. Raskolnikov is racked by his conscience after his criminal act yet Montgomery remains relatively morally unmolested by his own actions. Even the comparative sizes of the books are polar opposites, 'The Book of Evidence' being a mercifully short read for the reason outlined at the start of this review.
Banville earns his 'master of prose' plaudit alone for the voicing of the Mongomery character. Evoking Gogol, he displaces the reader from his or her locus of rational morality to view the world through the eyes of someone who is deeply mentally ill.
Mongomery ultimately only feels shame for his actions, no other remorse seems present and no redemption is invoked. His sciopathic nature is chillingly revealed when he recounts the dying words of the young girl he has murdered. Initially, he thinks she is mumbling the word 'Tommy' over and over again. Later on, he releases with amused detachment that the word she was actually saying was 'Mammy'.