Benjamin Black — The Silver Swan; Elegy for April

After reading the second two books in the Quirke series, it really makes me wonder why Banville even bothered with the pseudonym–it seems doubly self-indulgent when the writing is still pretty decent/lovely/atmospheric/appropriately noirish, and it has his picture and name on the black flap. I suppose everyone has their vanities. I read both of them last evening, and don’t quite have the energy to give each a full write-up.

The Silver Swan, though reviewers had written that they liked it better than Christine Falls, felt wrong to me. Oh, the writing was still fantastic, but the mystery aspect was lacking, a bit–the parallel narrative of the dead woman’s life was an interesting conceit, but the sordidness of it all combined with the lack of “detection” just left a really bad taste in my mouth.

Elegy for April was a little better for me, although still not quite so much a classic detective novel as one might expect, still leaves a little element of the unknown as both Quirke and Phoebe, now very much more a P.O.V. character (which was an interesting addition, at least) attempt to figure out what happened to Phoebe’s friend April Latimer. The noir elements are very much suited to the setting of 1950s Dublin, especially as Quirke, dried up after a nasty bout of alcoholism, confronts the world with new senses. Of course, the “twist” ending is again, quite nasty and unpleasant, and all together in keeping with the drabness and sordid lives that Black’s characters seem to lead (this is the second time such a twist has been used).

Either way, I’d continue reading them, but neither sequel quite lived up to the first.


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