Quirke—the hard-drinking, insatiably curious Dublin pathologist—is back, and he’s determined to find his daughter’s best friend, a well-connected young doctor
April Latimer has vanished. A junior doctor at a local hospital, she is something of a scandal in the conservative and highly patriarchal society of 1950s Dublin. Though her family is one of the most respected in the city, she is known for being independent-minded; her taste in men, for instance, is decidedly unconventional.
Now April has disappeared, and her friend Phoebe Griffin suspects the worst. Frantic, Phoebe seeks out Quirke, her brilliant but erratic father, and asks him for help. Sober again after intensive treatment for alcoholism, Quirke enlists his old sparring partner, Detective Inspector Hackett, in the search for the missing young woman. In their separate ways the two men follow April’s trail through some of the darker byways of the city to uncover crucial information on her whereabouts. And as Quirke becomes deeply involved in April’s murky story, he encounters complicated and ugly truths about family savagery, Catholic ruthlessness, and race hatred.
Both an absorbing crime novel and a brilliant portrait of the difficult and relentless love between a father and his daughter, this is Benjamin Black at his sparkling best.
Set in 1950s Dublin, Elegy of April by Benjamin Black is a rather suitable title for this dark novel, part mystery and part social commentary of the time. Phoebe Griffin approaches her father, Quirke, who is about to be released from a detox programme, with her concerns about Dr. April Latimer’s strange disappearance. While Quirke does not think it too odd an adult would go away for a week without telling anyone, he contacts his friend Detective Inspector Hackett to help him poke around and make inquiries about April. At the same time Phoebe has taken it upon herself to make inquiries as well. April’s prominent family is not at all concerned their daughter has not been heard from in over a week, but rather put out that they should even be questioned. The novel is beautifully rich in description and character development, enough so that I wanted to learn more about the characters. The mystery, the disappearance of April Latimer, seemed to be almost an aside, rather than the main focus of the novel. The reader learns about Quirke’s time in a detox programme, his desire to buy a car and learn to drive and then about the car itself, an Alvis. The relationships in the story are equally dark and mysterious and while the ending is a bit of a surprise, it leaves many questions left unanswered. I would recommend an Elegy for April to those who enjoy Irish literature, dark mysteries or simply looking for a mystery that is far removed from conventional mysteries.
Benjamin Black, the pen name of acclaimed novelist John Banville, is the author of Christine Falls and The Silver Swan. Christine Falls was nominated for both the Edgar Award and Macavity Award for Best Novel; both Christine Falls and Silver Swan were national bestsellers. Banville lives in Dublin.
I received a complimentary copy of Elegy for April by Benjamin Black from Henry Holt and Company Publishers to review. Receiving a copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.