Saturday, January 9, 2016

ARC Review: Even the Dead by Benjamin Black

Even the Dead
Author: Benjamin Black
Series: Quirke (Book 7)
Publication: Henry Holt and Co. (January 12, 2016)

Description: A suspicious death, a pregnant woman suddenly gone missing: Quirke's latest case leads him inexorably toward the dark machinations of an old foe

Perhaps Quirke has been down among the dead too long. Lately the Irish pathologist has suffered hallucinations and blackouts, and he fears the cause is a brain tumor. A specialist diagnoses an old head injury caused by a savage beating; all that's needed, the doctor declares, is an extended rest. But Quirke, ever intent on finding his place among the living, is not about to retire.

One night during a June heat wave, a car crashes into a tree in central Dublin and bursts into flames. The police assume the driver's death was either an accident or a suicide, but Quirke's examination of the body leads him to believe otherwise. Then his daughter Phoebe gets a mysterious visit from an acquaintance: the woman, who admits to being pregnant, says she fears for her life, though she won't say why. When the woman later disappears, Phoebe asks her father for help, and Quirke in turn seeks the assistance of his old friend Inspector Hackett. Before long the two men find themselves untangling a twisted string of events that takes them deep into a shadowy world where one of the city's most powerful men uses the cover of politics and religion to make obscene profits.

Even the Dead--Benjamin Black's seventh novel featuring the endlessly fascinating Quirke--is a story of surpassing intensity and surprising beauty.

My Thoughts: This is the first Quirke mystery that I have read and I definitely felt that I was missing a considerable amount of backstory that would have answered some of my many questions. I did get the idea that Quirke has some problems with alcohol and that he has some unanswered questions about his heritage.

It seems to me that the mystery - the suspicious death of a young man and the disappearance of his pregnant girlfriend - took the backseat to the internal battle that Quirke was facing. It seemed to me that most of the characters, particularly Quirke, spent most of their time gazing into their own heads.

Quirke calls in his friend in the police department, Hackett, when his assistant brings the suspicious death of a young man to his attention. Quirke has been on medical leave and it seems that he was more or less drifting. He was staying with his adopted brother who is a retired doctor and the doctor's second wife who had a previous relationship with Quirke. The relationship between them seems uneasy. He abruptly moves back to his own apartment when he begins to investigate the case.

Quirke also has an uneasy relationship with his daughter Phoebe at least in part because he gave her to his adoptive brother and his wife to raise when she was born. She didn't know that he was her father until just a few years previous to this story and they are still trying to build a relationship. Phoebe comes to Quirke when a young woman she met in a secretarial course comes to her for help. The young woman is frightened and pregnant. When Phoebe goes back to the safe place where she put her, the young woman is missing.

Those cases come together when it is learned that the young woman was the murdered young man's girlfriend. As Quirke and Hackett investigate they soon find ties to old cases and old troubles.

The story was lyrical and dream-like. I thought the pacing was slower than I am used to in most mysteries. It had some lovely, lyrical descriptions though.

Fans of the series will want to read this one because Quirke comes to some conclusions that he finds earth shattering or, at least, Quirke shattering. Newcomers may want to start at the beginning of the series to have a better understanding of the relationships that have already been built.

Favorite Quote:
What drove him, he believed, was the absence of a past. When he looked back, when he tried to look back, to his earliest days, there was only a blank space. He didn't know who he was, where he came from, who had fathered him, who his mother had been. He could almost see himself, a child standing alone in the midst of a vast, bare plain, with nothing behind him but darkness and storm. And so he was her on the trail of another lost creature.
I got this ARC from the publisher for review. You can buy your copy here.

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