A Death in Summer: A Novel (Quirke)

by Benjamin Black

Hardcover, 2011




Henry Holt and Co. (2011), Edition: First Edition, 320 pages


When newspaper magnate Richard Jewell is found dead at his country estate, clutching a shotgun in his lifeless hands, few see his demise as cause for sorrow. But before long Doctor Quirke and Inspector Hackett realize that, rather than the suspected suicide, "Diamond Dick" has in fact been murdered.

Media reviews

"A Death in Summer," Black's fourth book featuring pathologist Garret Quirke, is a swift, hopscotching murder mystery set in postwar Ireland. Quirke is called in on the Jewell case by Detective Inspector Hackett, and he can't help but get involved. He and Hackett believe Jewell's death was not a
Show More
suicide, and they spend much of the book working together. They're similar and different; both are middle-aged, but Hackett is plump and rumpled, while Quirke is tall and dissolutely handsome. In one of Black's previous novels, Quirke went to rehab, but here he starts drinking again; it's as if the genre demands that he lift a glass.
Show Less

User reviews

LibraryThing member ijustgetbored
Something about this novel was just . . . lacking. There were so many points of interest that Black could have picked up on, yet he seemed to leave them dangling as loose threads, never weaving them into any meaningful, complex tapestry. Take the setting of 1950s Ireland, for instance: yes, it's
Show More
there, and we're not in 2011 anymore, but Black could have done so much more with setting and scene, made it so much more vibrant (or gloomy, as may be more appropriate) than it actually was. Some fashion details, classic cars, and the pervasive absence of cell phones do not a period setting make. True, this novel could not have existed without the ability for the wealthy and entitled to exert their power over basically everyone else, but I would have liked to have seen Black really take his milieu and run with it.

Then there's the predictability. Mild spoilers here, but in this book 2 + 2 really does equal 4, and characters do behave in quite predictable ways. Even Phoebe-- who I have found unpredictable before-- seems rather dull and unexiciting here. Where you can expect to find anti-Semitism, you find it. Where you can expect to find Church corruption, you find it. If it doesn't look like a suicide, well, no fancy deduction needed: it isn't. If it has a whiff of sexual corruption, expect as much. Appears to be mentally unstable? Count on it. This really wasn't one for page-turning suspense and surprise conclusions.

And is Black perhaps getting tired of this set of characters? As mentioned above, even quirky Phoebe seemed tiresome. There's a plot with her and Sinclair, but it fizzes into nothingness. One potentially interesting character from the last novel in the series appears to be written out. Quirke seems to be going through the motions, "playing" an alcoholic detective with a weakness for women stereotype (nothing wrong with that; I can appreciate that in a main character) rather than coming alive on the page as a distinctive example of one (now, that's a problem).

I would have liked to see more of Quirke in his coroner, role, too; it may have been making him into too much of a private detective here that made a lot of the plot hang loosely on coincidencial encounters and "surprising" discoveries. Perhaps he was too far out of his element? I'm not positive what Black needed to do with this novel, but it needed another go-round and think-though at the outset before becoming a published work. It's ultimately disappointing and predictable, full of lost opportunities and humdrum cliches.
Show Less
LibraryThing member bcquinnsmom
It was a drowsy day in summer, a perfect day for a death:

"When word got about that Richard Jewell had been found with the greater part of his head blown off and clutching a shotgun in his bloodless hands, few outside the family circle and few inside it, either, considered his demise a cause for
Show More

Thus begins A Death in Summer, the fourth novel of this series. As Richard "Diamond Dick" Jewell lays there in his own gore in his beautiful estate called Brooklands, Quirke and Hackett, the two "Connoisseurs of death," arrive on the scene. Jewell runs the Daily Clarion, Dublin's top-selling newspaper, and while the death looks like a suicide the press isn't going to run it as such, since suicides were never reported in the newspapers. Quirke, who had met Jewell some time earlier at a charity function, doesn't believe it's a suicide anyway. When talking to Françoise Jewell, Richard's widow, and his sister Denise (Dannie), he is stymied by their seeming lack of care and wonders "who are these two women really and what was going on here?" That's but one question on his mind as he and Hackett begin their investigation. They will once again mix in the Olympic realm of the moneyed classes who are very adept at hushing up any hint of scandal and quite skilled at keeping secrets, as the investigation takes Quirke back to Françoise (more than once) and to Jewell's business rival, Carlton Sumner. One of the leads will also take Quirke to the orphanage where he spent a short amount of time before being taken to an industrial school; although he's there to inquire after someone who may hold some information, he also wonders if he isn't there to "knead" some of his old wounds. But what he learns may just be the key to unlocking the whole sordid business.

Aside from the portrait of the powerful in Dublin, Black also takes a look at the deep vein of anti-Semitism that flourishes there. Jews are another group of people who find alienation in the city; many of them won't use their real names and opt for one that is less ethnic. Even though the latest Lord Mayor, Briscoe, is Jewish, there are still a lot of people who are victims of prejudice; David Sinclair, Phoebe's new boyfriend, is one of them. There are several subplots that eventually come together at the end, and there are enough diversions to keep any mystery reader well occupied.

While Black continues to amaze me here with his imagery and his gift for language, and especially with his characters, this book just takes forever to get anywhere. Normally I don't mind the slow pace in Black's novels, but this one sort of dragged in several spots. When the action picks back up again, however, it turns that out the slow interludes can be forgiven because of the most evil and haunting nature of the crime, which ultimately has Hackett making the proverbial deal with the devil to gain any sort of justice:

"It's the times, Dr. Quirke, and the place. We haven't grown up yet, here on this tight little island. But we do what we can, you and I. That's all we can do."

highly recommended -- as are all the novels in this series. They are simply superb.
Show Less
LibraryThing member saratoga99
Despite his endearing character imperfections, Quirke truly is an engaging and fascinating man easily capable of stealing your heart, even if only for 320 pages. He readily admits his self-indulgent life's missteps with earnest introspection. Garret Quirke steadfastly remains not only a prominent
Show More
(not always in the best sense) pathologist, but also fittingly quite adept in discerning the villain, as Detective Inspector Hackett is unhesitatingly aware. Quirke's exceptionally notable and preeminently distinguished prominence with Dublin's privileged circles stems from dubious family connections well known if one is a follower of Quirke's previous adventures.

When a lovely English summer day is unpleasantly disturbed by the grim discovery of the wealthy, notorious publisher Richard Jewell, aka Diamond Dick embracing a rifle in death, the immediate consensus suggests suicide. Of course, even a rank amateur could detect such an obvious fallacy. Meanwhile, the elegantly composed and lovely French widow Françoise seeks comfort with her husband's edgy half-sister Dannie in the drawing room sipping the Brits' requisite gin and tonic, any visible grief lies well submerged beneath the upper societal strata's strict protocol despite such a grisly event.

Françoise, a fleeting past acquaintance who is shrewdly willing to exploit any means to deflect even the minutest suspicion upon her marvels at the fateful alignment with our precocious, yet often dispirited Quirke, who immediately stumbles into a reflective attraction for the ostensibly tangible suspect. Successful in her seductive attempts, Quirke's conflicted conscience reminds him that his continued dalliance jeopardizes his long-standing relationship.

The subtle complexity of unanticipated actions hurls Quirke into a startling swirl of bewildering events which surprisingly involve not only his daughter Phoebe, but also his assistant Sinclair, who also is Dannie's confidante, a highly unstable woman. Most intriguing to me is Quirke's measured affective and philosophical evolution. Yes, he stumbles a bit along the way, but as the villain is suitably identified, Quirke definitely develops into a more emotionally stable, balanced and highly laudable character. At long last, John Banville's alter ego, Benjamin Black reveals Garret Quirke's immense possibilities.
Show Less
LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
I have enjoyed every one of Benjamin Black's dark mystery novels set in 1950s Dublin, and A Death in Summer is no exception. The fourth book in the series featuring the pathologist Dr Quirke with his complicated and troubled life. This time, he is called in at the suicide of a rich and powerful
Show More
man, only it's not suicide and nothing is clear or easy. Meanwhile, we learn more about Quirke's ambitious assistant.

For the first two-thirds of the novel nothing seems to fit together or to be going anywhere. Plot lines lead to apparent dead ends in a meandering sort of way, but Black's writing is always so enjoyable I was willing to wander wherever he wanted to take me. Of course, in the final third of the book things get going, in churning, gut wrenching fashion, in which he pulls everything together at the last possible moment. Atmosphere is the star of this novel, with scenes described evocatively in very few words. I'd recommend beginning this series at the beginning, with Christine Falls, but if you've been following Quirke along his lugubrious way, you won't be disappointed with this one.
Show Less
LibraryThing member TallyDi
In a word: bleak. Centers on the emotional -- and physical -- effects of a murder on the investigators who turn out to have personal connections to the victim and the victim's family and friends. This is the fourth book in a series set in Dublin but it can be read as a stand-alone mystery.
LibraryThing member lyncos
I enjoy Dr. Quirke and have read Benjamin Black's other Quirke novels. The character of Quirke is an interesting one, with all of the complexity, strengths, frailities and flaws one would expect of a human being. Benjamin Black presents a fine, intelligent, multi-layered story that makes one think.
Show More
And that is commended.
Show Less
LibraryThing member macabr
A DEATH IN SUMMER is the most accessible of the four Quirke books by Benjamin Black but that is not to say that the characters are not as dedicated to understanding that which cannot be understood as they are in the other books.

Quirke is brought to the home of Richard Jewell, Diamond Dick, the very
Show More
wealthy and very powerful owner of a chain of newspapers that he had inherited from his father, who had been Lord Mayor of Dublin, an outstanding achievement for a man of his background in the Dublin of the early twentieth century. Inspector Hackett has been called to the Jewell home after a shot rings out and Diamond Dick is found dead with the shotgun in his hands. Richard Jewell wielded a powerful weapon, the “scurrilous and much-feared Daily Clarion, city’s top-selling paper. The older Jewell had been something of an uncut stone, given to violent vendettas and a loathing of trades unions, but his son, though no less unscrupulous and vengeful, had sought to polish the family name to a high luster by means of well-publicized acts of philanthropy. Richard Jewell was known for his sponsorship of orphanages and schools for the handicapped….” Those who knew Jewell well found the notion of Diamond Dick as philanthropist laughable.

Ostensibly a suicide, Hackett and Quirke realize that the manner in which Jewell is holding the gun indicates that the scene that has been staged. Jewell has been murdered and there is likely to be a trove of suspects from among all the people who have reason to hate Richard Jewell.

Jewell’s French wife, Francoise d’Aubigny, does not appear overcome with grief. But her sister-in-law, Dannie, seems truly desolate. Quirke is surprised to learn that Dannie and his daughter, Phoebe, are friends and that Dannie also knows Quirke’s assistant, Doctor David Sinclair. It is David who hears Dannie’s repeated comment, “the poor orphans.”

The Dublin of A DEATH IN SUMMER is less weighed down by the engulfing presence of the Catholic Church. The influence of the church is there but it is the presence of another group that runs through the story. The Jewell family are Jewish by blood although not by practice. David Sinclair is also Jewish and the author mentions Briscoe, the Lord Mayor of Dublin. Briscoe’s first term began in 1956 so the time frame is established; Dublin is moving closer to the relative freedom of the sixties and away from the stultifying atmosphere of the early fifties.

Quirke is the ultimate outsider, an orphan adopted into the powerful Griffin family, but that doesn’t change his perception of his place in the world. It does, however, influence how other people perceive Quirke and the connection to the Griffins gives Quirke an inside look at the world of Richard Jewell. Inspector Hackett has no difficulty encouraging Quirke to take advantage of his social station. Quirke, despite the pleas of his daughter, is drawn to the puzzle that is the investigation of a crime. Quirke and Hackett make a good team.

A DEATH IN SUMMER is about anomalies. Dublin is suffering through a heat spell that the residents of the city are ill equipped to handle. The Jewell family has denied being Jewish, not overtly, but covertly as they send Dannie “to the nuns” for her education. Yet Dannie’s hope for acceptance lies with David Sinclair. Quirke and Phoebe are not participants in the story, they are observers to a degree that is different from their roles in the previous three books. The soul of the book is David Sinclair, a peripheral character.
Show Less
LibraryThing member drudmann
Good, as usual; but the story pattern of the Quirke novels is starting to become too apparent.
LibraryThing member YogiABB
I just finished a who dunnit by an author new to me, Benjamin Black, the pen name of John Banville. The book is set in Dublin, Ireland where Richard Jewell, aka "Diamond Dick" a rich powerful newspaperman is found with his head blown off by a shotgun. Crusty old detective Hackett calls in his
Show More
friend Quirke a medical examiner to help solve the crime. Quirke, who is well named by the way, quickly gets personally involved with Jewell's beautiful french wife, Francoise.

Detective Hackett and Quirke are crusty old guys with a few nicks and scrapes. The writing is superb and the plotting tight. This was a great find and I recommend it highly. Get it at your local library, I did, save some bucks.
Show Less
LibraryThing member PirateJenny
Another LT win. And another excellent addition to the Quirke series.

Philanthropist Richard Jewell is shot--head blown clean off--and it looks like suicide. Except it's rather difficult to shoot oneself with a shotgun. And since Inspector Hackett is called to the scene and Quirke is the medical
Show More
examiner on call, well, they walk right into trouble. Again.

We finally get to meet Sinclair, Quirke's assistant, as more than a shadow in the corner. He becomes very real in this novel. And, as always, we get new interesting characters related to the victim. Some I'm sure will be back, though whether as a minor but important plot point, like Jimmy Minor, or more major, like Sinclair, is still to be seen.

And Quirke. He's still mostly likeable, but still also a bastard in some ways, as he shuffles his way through figuring out the mystery, which, as always, is far nastier than it initially seems. The Dublin of the 1950s has an underbelly as dark as NYC or LA. And it makes for wonderful stories. I look forward to the next adventure Quirke has.
Show Less
LibraryThing member karen_o
While I've enjoyed the Benjamin Black novels featuring Irish pathologist Quirke, and this is a fine entry into the series, I would caution readers of mysteries that these are not "who done it?" style stories. On offer here is a more thoughtful character driven study, not a tale of deduction. A
Show More
fine, well written book, just be aware of what you're getting.
Show Less
LibraryThing member lmedgerton
Quirke is back in the fourth installment of this 1950s Irish pathologist historical mystery series. Quirke must determine how Richard Jewell died since a self-inflicted gunshot wound is problematic. The writing style, plot, and characterization are as good as in the previous installments; however,
Show More
I prefer my mysteries to allow the reader to go along with the detective as they discover clues. I felt like in this one Black realized that he had to wrap this one up and the ending seemed very rushed and the resolution of the crime just an afterthought.
Show Less
LibraryThing member gypsysmom
Benjamin Black is a pen name for Booker Award-winning novelist John Banville. I enjoyed Banville's book The Sea and I have a special fondness for novels set in Ireland so I thought I would give this book a whirl.

Newspaper magnate Richard Jewell was found dead in his home office apparently of a
Show More
self-inflicted gunshot to the head. DI Hackett of the Irish police force (called the Guards in this book which is set in the 1950s but now called the Garda) investigates along with his friend, pathologist Quirke. Fairly quickly they establish that Jewell was murdered and then the hunt is on for the perpetrator. There are lots of possibilities as Jewell was not well liked. Jewell leaves behind his wife, Francoise, his daughter, Giselle, and his sister, Dannie. None of the women seem devastated by his death although Dannie calls in her friend David Sinclair who is Quirke's assistant to help her deal with the trauma. Francoise certainly seems quite cool and collected. Quirke gets to know Francoise quite well and his daughter, Phoebe, becomes friends with Dannie through David Sinclair. By the time the mystery is unwound relationships have been made and unmade.

I suspected who the murderer was and the reason for the murder well before the end so this wasn't the most gripping whodunit for me. However, I was sufficiently intrigued by Quirke, Phoebe and David to keep reading. There were numerous references to Quirke's past that were not clear to me but maybe if I had read the preceding books they would be. I will be looking for those since I think this series has promise.
Show Less
LibraryThing member jfurshong
One of the pleasures for serious readers of mysteries is the continuation of a series over the years, a pleasure not available to the mainstream fiction reader. The detective, and sometimes other key characters, age over time and you have this wonderful sense of moving through life in tandem with a
Show More
favorite character. Alexandria Alter, writing earlier this month in the Wall Street Journal, discusses this idea in an article titled “The Really Long Goodbye”. Kurt Wallander, John Rebus, J. P. Beaumont, Harry Bosch, Dave Robicheaux, Kinsey Millhone and Jack Reacher are just a few examples of sleuths who have advanced in years as the number of books in the series has mounted. Happily Benjamin Black (aka John Banville) is allowing his detective, Dr. Garret Quirke, to do the same.

Set in 1950s Dublin, the addition of this 4th novel in the Quirke series, seems like more of a mystery than the others. The victim is identified immediately, newspaper tycoon Richard Jewell, and Quirke, a Dublin pathologist is brought into the case. There is an eerie foreshadowing of Rupert Murdoch here, as Jewell’s multifarious dealings and bizarre family connections are gradually revealed. Quirke is as complicated as ever, a loner of course, but for example in each book the relationship with his formerly estranged daughter deepens a little. It is this evolution of Quirke’s character that is one of the most appealing aspects of this series.

It has been frequently noted in reviews that John Banville has found a second career writing as Benjamin Black. He has been quoted as saying that he prefers the Quirke novels to his award-winning progeny. As readers we are all the richer for these beautifully layered, elegantly written mysterious, with our friend Dr. Quirke at the center.
Show Less
LibraryThing member BlackSheepDances
Good old Quirke. The coroner/sleuth/ladies man is back to solve another puzzle. I've read the other Dr. Quirke books by Benjamin Black, and there's just something so appealing about the Dublin city life and Dr. Quirke in it: his mournful boozing, the earnest but misguided attempts at parenting his
Show More
adult daughter, and the stream of ladies that nevers ends, despite no apparent effort on his part to attract them. In fact, I picture him much as the detective George Gently played by Martin Shaw on the British television series Gently.

In any case, this story involves the suspected suicide of the high-profile society member and horseman Richard Jewell. Quirke ends up at the country estate almost immediately and assists in interviewing the widow, a striking French woman who is calm and collected despite the horror she just discovered. As in many television shows, the medical examiner here seems more of a detective than a doctor...he pretty much leads the investigation for all purposes. Yes, it's a bit of a stretch but Quirke is just that kind of character, one that Black (a pseudonym of author John Banville) writes well.

Because it takes place in Ireland, there are gorgeous descriptions of country estates, drawing rooms, and endless cups of tea. As in all Black novels, many descriptions of the facets of light and dark, the penumbras of shadow play. I noticed a new motif in this particular novel-trees are often described extensively and with a sense of purpose to the story. It's a nice touch that makes the story feel more of a journey than a procedural.

So with all that going for it, it should be better than it is. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy the series and the character of Quirke is up there with Wallander for me in terms of crime fiction. But this one disappointed me in two ways. First, it introduces a story line about Sinclair, Quirke's assistant, and his possible relationship with Phoebe, Quirke's troubled but plucky daughter. It's compelling, but it doesn't seem to develop-it drops off completely. Then, there are the other characters that make up the suspects, and I felt like they were all sort of caricatures-from beginning to end, they never changed in their behavior. Instead of developing some complexity or depth, they simply remained the same as when the story introduces them. This made predicting and solving the crime fairly easy for the reader. Usually in a detective story, the underlying rule is 'nothing is as it seems'; yet in this one, yep, it pretty much is exactly how it seems.

And, no spoilers here, but in terms of imagination, the plot of this book has been on every other episode of Law & Order SVU. Mental illness, homeles children, anti-Semitic hate crimes, and business corruption fill in the blanks, but the basic premise is pretty bland and predictable. It's still an enjoyable read, as there's something strangely peaceful about the old-school sleuthing that Quirke does.
Show Less
LibraryThing member IreneF
“Benjamin Black” is the pen name taken by Booker Prize-winning Irish author John Banville for a series of mystery novels, all but one of them featuring the pathologist Dr. Quirke, a lumbering black hole of a man given to dulling his internal void with alcohol. As such, you would expect the
Show More
books to have a literary quality, and in this they do not disappoint.

This newest book, A Death in Summer, opens with the discovery of Richard “Diamond Dick” Jewell, wealthy publisher and philanthropist, lying across his desk with his head blown off and his favorite shotgun in his hands. This time, Detective Inspector Hackett calls in Dr. Quirke first thing, in a semi-official capacity. Neither of them accepts that Jewell committed suicide, and given Jewell’s rapaciousness as a businessman, suspects are thick on the ground.

Like the other Quirke novels, A Death in Summer is not a mystery for readers captivated by the art of detection. There is no careful reconstruction of the crime, no well-laid trail of clues for the reader to decipher against an exotic background. For Black, the background is half the story—1950s Dublin, a city of class divisions nearly impossible to traverse, as muses the decidedly non-U Hackett:

“Petty crooks he could deal with, the dregs of the slums, but when it came to the likes of Carlton Sumner and the Jewells he was on shaky ground, in unfamiliar territory. That was why he needed Quirke as a guide and a protector. Although Quirke had come from nothing—literally so, almost, since he had no parents and had passed his childhood in orphanages—he had been taken up into the world of money and position when he was adopted by the Griffin family. Quirke knew his way about in places where Hackett felt lost….”

Dublin’s role in Black’s novels is much like Los Angeles was for Raymond Chandler—a sullen, insinuating presence that threatens to corrupt everything it touches. Here its character switches from foggy, damp, and brooding to dry, hot, and inescapable as the city suffers through a heat wave. (The Dubliners might deal better if they shed their tweed jackets, woolen socks, and felt hats, but they seem incapable of such affronts to tradition.)

Quirke is drawn to Jewell’s preternaturally poised French widow, an anomaly even among Dublin’s upper crust. As before, Quirke’s hapless daughter Phoebe gets drawn into the affair, as does his assistant David Sinclair. Sinclair loses a piece of himself, but perhaps Phoebe gains…

And this is the difficulty with A Death in Summer if you have read the previous novels: it resembles a soap opera, melodramatic and repetitious. The plot reads as if Black draws a certain number of cards from a deck labeled “plot devices”, then reshuffles and draws again for each book. By now these turns have become predictable. While offering the same pleasures of the earlier novels in style, atmosphere, and characters, the book ultimately lets Black’s fans down. He can do better.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Laura400
This was my least favorite of the series. It seemed to retread old ground, and the mystery wasn't very interesting or hard to figure out. Not bad, but not up to the first three books, in my opinion.
LibraryThing member icolford
In the fourth of Benjamin Black's (aka John Banville) crime novels to feature pathologist Quirke, the people of Dublin are suffering through a stretch of scorching summer weather. Widely reviled newspaper owner Richard Jewell has been found dead in his home office, his head blown off by a shotgun
Show More
blast. He’s holding the gun, which gives the death the trappings of suicide. But no one knows why he would kill himself. What’s more, the details of the scene don’t add up, so Quirke and Detective Inspector Hackett decide that the death must be treated as a homicide. Hackett takes charge, but Quirke, ever curious, cannot help but be drawn into the investigation, especially after encountering Jewell’s sultry widow, the imperturbable and enigmatic Françoise d’Aubigny. It turns out that Richard Jewell (known to his many detractors as “Diamond Dick”) was a ruthless businessman with shady connections and lots of enemies. The list of potential suspects is long and includes employees, business rivals and family members. In addition to Françoise, Richard’s troubled sister Dannie is also of interest to Hackett and Quirke, less as a suspect than as a source of information. In a bizarre coincidence, Dannie Jewell is a friend of David Sinclair, Quirke’s taciturn and socially awkward assistant in the path lab at the Hospital of the Holy Family. Quirke’s attempt to encourage friendship (possibly even romance) between David and his daughter Phoebe, situates Phoebe at the periphery of the case: through David, Phoebe meets Dannie and starts forming her own theories about Richard's death and the Jewell family. Quirke, back on the booze and at something of a loose end in his life, is seduced by a mystery that only grows more perplexing the deeper he digs, and by a widow who doesn’t seem to be grieving. The narrative shifts seamlessly among perspectives—mostly Quirke’s and Hackett’s. As the story progresses, Quirke time and again pokes his nose where it doesn’t belong, placing himself and others in danger but also exposing secrets that suggest an array of credible motives for murder. The story Banville has concocted moves at a leisurely pace, veers in unexpected directions, and is never less than enthralling. The writing throughout is elegant and dripping with atmosphere. Quirke is a man wracked by self doubt, alert to his many flaws and weak in the face of temptation—be it booze or women. A loner at heart, he does not trust easily, and yet craves companionship. Women find him attractive, but whenever he drops his guard he ends up in a compromising situation and wakes up the next morning hungover and burdened with regret. As a pathologist who deals in death and who’s seen it all, he is sensitive to the depths of depravity to which humanity can sink. But there are also times when he speaks and acts impulsively and imperils himself by downplaying the importance of his own observations. His fallibility and contradictory nature make him achingly human. The overall mood of the novel is sombre, and the book exhibits once again Banville’s unparalleled skill at individualizing characters and using setting to project states of mind. A Death in Summer is a dazzling addition to a stellar series, one that leaves us hungry for the next.
Show Less
LibraryThing member krbrancolini
I've heard that most people who love the Benjamin Black novels don't enjoy the John Banville novels and vice versa. I've read both and in general, I agree. I vastly prefer Banville's mysteries and I think that the reasons are two-fold: Garret Quirke and the 1950's Dublin setting. Coupled, of
Show More
course, with Banville's absolutely gorgeous prose. I've read all four Benjamin Black novels and while it would be difficult for me to choose a favorite, "A Death in Summer" reminded me of one my favorite mystery writers, Raymond Chandler. There was something in the pacing of the novel and the vulnerability of Quirke that reminded me of Philip Marlow in "The Big Sleep." The way the plot unfolded reflected the soporific heat of the Dublin summer. Quirke shares similarities with another one of my favorite detectives, John Lawton's Inspector Troy. Both Troy and Quirke are handsome, flawed, and prone to choosing the wrong women. Like Philip Marlowe. Can't wait to read about Quirke's next case.
Show Less
LibraryThing member librorumamans
After reading the first few chapters, I skipped to the last to see whether there was any point in continuing. There didn't seem to be. A Death in Summer strikes me as dull and formulaic in both plot and characters. The country-house murder of a ruthless, nouveau-riche tycoon; an exotic wife; the
Show More
estranged family relationships; an investigator who reveals his own secrets as he uncovers the poisonous secret beneath the glitter that led to murder. One might say that this has been done to death.

In future, I'll stick to John Banville, whose books I greatly enjoy.
Show Less
LibraryThing member SmithfieldJones
Having enjoyed Banville's forage into Chandler's World with a "new" Philip Marlow novel, "The Black-Eyed Blonde", I decided to give Banville's "Quirke" series a try. After all, it was obvious in The Black-Eyes Blonde, Banville was no slouch as a writer and, more evidence of this is that Banville
Show More
was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1989 for "The Book of Evidence", won the Booker Prize in 2005 for "The Sea" and was awarded the Franz Kafka Prize in 2013. Banville has at least a dozen or so other most-prestigious awards--and, it is rumored, he is on the short-list for a Nobel Prize in Literature. Even though Banville has labeled his crime fiction as "cheap fiction" , Banville's writing has been called perfectly crafted, beautiful, and dazzling. His skill shows up here in this pleasurable read of his "cheap fiction". The only book in the Quirke series in the Library at the time I went looking was "A Death in Summer" from 2011, by Banville's alter-ego Benjamin Black. I read it in three stayed-up-late sittings. The writing is magnificent and, as he is known-for a terrific sense of humor it, fortunately, in a subtle and not easily perceived way, shows through in this novel-which is the 4th book of the Quirke series. Beginning with the main protagonist "Quirke" , starting with the character's name, moving on to his occupation, and his dialogue and his image of himself, that sense of humor continues to reside in a light dusting throughout the personalities, the language, the places, and the physical being of the other characters. The plot does not hold center stage here--the people, and the places do. The plot is importantly there however, is believable, i effective and not fabricated, but who did it and how was it done frequently turns over the stage to who who is, and why and what who will do next , and why who did what was done in the first place. Make no mistake, however; the book has power, reward, suffering and pain, laid on with a most delicate hand.
Show Less
LibraryThing member jkdavies
This felt a bit less lyrical, and "thinner" in the story than previous ones. Still enjoyable, except for Dr Quirke's unaccountably charming way with the posh ladies...
LibraryThing member MarkPSadler
With humidity as thick as molasses, an Irish heat wave threatens to bring Dublin to a slow crawl in this 1950s drama. Like Ireland itself, time moves slowly and this novel could have been written in a time dating from 1920s forward. Only references to concentration camps and the French resistance
Show More
give us an accuracy to bring time forward.
Like a take-off on Holmes and Watson, Inspector Hackett and his trusted partner, pathologist Dr. Quirke make an odd pair poking around in the affairs of dead newspaper owner, Richard ‘Diamond Dick’ Jewell. In a country still torn with prejudice after World War II the Irish seem surprised to find a Jewish conclave here in Dublin, one treated with respect unless they happen to get in the way. Jewell apparently got in someone’s way.
Dropping clues like flies on a sticky summer day, Black allows us to see ahead of his investigators and we want to shout out warnings and have them discard the red-herrings. As the only so-human, flawed protagonist, Quirke, stumbles blindly ahead, only seeing the clues like a mole suddenly blinded by the bright sky after sticking his snout of a hole for the first time. Surely he can’t help but notice what he has been tripping over, especially when a bloody finger is attached to his front door in an envelope.
Jewell’s death has so many possible suspects that it takes the entire book to whittle them down slowly, one at a time keeping you guessing until the very end. The plodding pace of the book helps evolve the storyline and makes this one worth hanging in there until the inevitable conclusion.
Show Less
LibraryThing member mookie86
Another solid read from Benjamin Black. After newspaper tycoon Richard Jewell commits suicide (so it seems), Quirke is called in to help out his friend Hackett. Once again, Quirke gets wrapped up in situations he shouldn't and straddles the lines between his career, personal life, and family.
Show More
Another chapter in the great adventures of Dr. Quirke. Fun read as usual.
Show Less
LibraryThing member pnorman4345
This is a detective story by Julian Barnes. A defter touch than most, more interested in character than most, but not too well plotted,


Original language



Page: 0.2272 seconds