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Christine Falls (Quirke #1)

3.46  ·  Rating Details ·  8,059 Ratings  ·  1,047 Reviews
In the debut crime novel from the Booker-winning author, a Dublin pathologist follows the corpse of a mysterious woman into the heart of a conspiracy among the city's high Catholic society.

It's not the dead that seem strange to Quirke. It's the living. One night, after a few drinks at an office party, Quirke shuffles down into the morgue where he works and finds his brothe
Hardcover, 340 pages
Published 2006 by Henry Holt and Co.
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Ian "Marvin" Grayejoy
The End Justifies the Mean

I originally bought this as a remainder and left it unread for several years, suspecting it might be a vain or indulgent experiment in crime genre fiction by one of my favourite authors, John Banville.

Instead, it’s a masterful and easy to read pathological, if not necessarily surgical, dissection of family, social and religious issues in 1950’s Irish Catholic Dublin and Boston. Banville subtly utilises all of his literary skills to conjure a convincing irreverent, if no
Bill  Kerwin
Nov 15, 2013 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it

This, the first in the series of detective novels written pseudonymously by John Banville, is set in 1950's Dublin and features the melancholy pathologist Quirke, who, though scarred by failure and a widower's grief, still possesses a spark of intellectual curiosity and a few glowing embers of compassion. When he discovers his brother-in-law, a prosperous physician, altering the death records of young Christine Falls, he begins an investigation that leads him through the low and high ranks of Du
Dec 20, 2014 Mona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Suprisingly Brilliant Noir

I didn't have high expectations for this book.

But I was taken by surprise.

It was much better than I expected.

Benjamin Black a.k.a. John Banville has written a suprisingly good noir crime novel, albeit a very dark one.

Quirke (whose first name we never discover) is a pathologist in a Dublin hospital. He's the guy who does autopsies and determines cause of death.

Late one night, after a holiday party, he is amazed to discover his brother-in-law (and brother by adoption) Ma
Nov 13, 2012 Fionnuala added it
Shelves: crime
Having read two of the later Quirke books, I thought it might be a good idea to try the first in the series. I had thought initially that John Banville was simply amusing himself creating wry stories about a quirky pathologist and his police inspector side-kick as they tracked down the perpetrators of various crimes in 1950s Dublin. I now realise that Banville intends more than amusement, for himself as well as for his readers. There’s an underlying theme running through all of these books; the ...more
Aug 04, 2015 Darwin8u rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
"I'm no more morbid than the next pathologist."
- Benjamin Black, Christine Falls


"The murdered dead,
You thought.
But could it not have been
some violent shattered boy
nosing out what got mislaid
between the cradle and the explosion."

- Seamus Heaney, from 'The Badger'

It is hard to review this novel without wanting to give the whole chreche away. The nasty, dark, secretive details of this book are where it's all at, but I'm afraid if I started swinging around just one detail, I would end up spilli
Stephanie Griffin
Feb 10, 2008 Stephanie Griffin rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no-one!
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 25, 2016 BlackOxford rated it really liked it
Shelves: irish
The Law As Enemy

In the long ago past of an Ireland still ruled by the Church, when people actually said things like “Have you a cigarette itself to lend me?” and called policemen ‘peelers’, there lived an alcoholic consultant pathologist, with persistently questionable taste in women, named Quirke. As idiosyncratic as his name implies, most days he has a constant buzz on from whiskey, gin, or wine. It is fortunate therefore that he doesn’t have much to do with living patients. Not so fortunate,
May 29, 2008 Dale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, ireland
A joke from the 1970s : A stranger walks into a Belfast pub and orders a beer. The man next to him at the bar eyes him suspiciously for a few minutes, then leans over and says "what religion are you, then?". "I'm atheist.". "We're all atheist, but are you Catholic atheist or Protestant atheist?"

Mr. Quirke, consulting pathologist, is a Catholic atheist. He spent his early years in an orphanage until he was adopted by Judge Griffin, then a barrister. Griffin had a son, Malachy, but gave all his at
May 31, 2008 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Filled with atmosphere, but not much else, opening Christine Falls evokes the kind of dark noir atmosphere of the early fifties, step into the book and you step back into smoky drawing rooms and corner bars, squat henchmen, sleek cars, and swirling gowns wrapping around the legs of elegant woman. Black (Banville) is expert at creating this sultry mood. I don’t read mysteries often, but when I do, it’s because I want to sink into a book where the many leads spin tighter and tighter, strands that ...more
Sep 27, 2016 Pantelis rated it really liked it
A good book is a book you want to read again and again. Most crime fiction novels are books that you throw away after use. Once the mystery is solved, the book becomes useless. However, there are exceptions. You want to return to the Quirke novels because they offer a marvelous language experience. Banville is a great prose stylist, combining elegance and wit, creating scenes that feed the reader's senses, all six of them, often in the same sentence. In storytelling, the most exciting part of th ...more
Jul 17, 2017 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: n-irlanda, e4
Com o pseudónimo de Benjamin Black, John Banville escreveu uma série de sete romances - enquadrados no género de literatura policial – protagonizados por Quirke, um patologista que trabalha numa morgue em Dublin.

O Segredo de Christine, o primeiro da série, tem como tema a velha ambição humana de criar algo grandioso que mude o mundo (ou o mantenha na mesma); mesmo sendo ilícito será justificável pelos ideais, neste caso religiosos, e viável pelo poder económico.

É um bom livro mas prefiro o Ban
Feb 27, 2008 Marian rated it it was ok
I sort of enjoyed this book as I was reading it, but when I got to the end I felt let down. Not well written, and sort of boring, this book could have and should have been better. The descriptions of the protagonist as a bear-like man were totally overdone -- I think the words "lumbering", "big," "massive" etc. appeared every time he did. Tiresome.
Feb 13, 2009 Tim rated it really liked it
If you like mysteries with hard drinking Irish pathologists in 1950’s Dublin & crazy Catholics this is the book for you
May 11, 2010 Tony rated it really liked it
Black, Benjamin. CHRISTINE FALLS. (2006). ****. This is the first of Black’s (pseudonym of John Banville) series of mysteries featuring Quirke, a pathologist in Ireland. I seriously recommend that you start off with this first installment, and not read a subsequent one before it. There is a lot of background into Quirke’s personal life provided here that is ofter referred to in the later novels. The title is the name of a young woman who died of post-partum hemorraghing, but whose death certific ...more
Izetta Autumn
Jun 06, 2008 Izetta Autumn rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery-thriller
This is a hard book for me to rate. Christine Falls, written by Benjamin Black (Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea, John Banville in psuedonym), is marketed as a mystery-thriller - a more erudite Da Vinci code. In truth, it's much closer to the noir genre - ultimately acting as a character novel, built on a mystery, and surrounded by deathly overtones. It's Banville, so of course the writing is strong - elegant, descriptive, and engaging. The character development is the central trope of the ...more
Apr 19, 2008 Aaron rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: People who really love Law and Order
Recommended to Aaron by:
So if The Night Gardener manages to be sort of like The Wire, only not as good, Christine Falls manages to be sort of like Murder She Wrote. Only not as good. And maybe a little darker.

Cars ooze up the road. Tulips are the flesh of dead men. The rise of moon is full of grim portent. All stares are baleful. Even the most minor characters insist on visually apprehending the world in a way that is grimly portentous and darkly baleful.

This is a paraphrase, but I remember the archetypal sentence of
Sep 27, 2008 thecrx rated it liked it
What I learned from this book? Don't insert "poetic", unlikely thoughts into the minds of my characters. Just as an example, do not write a rape scene in which the rapist, mid-thrust, looks up at the view of the ocean (he and his victim are in the back seat of a car parked by the beach), whose crashing waves are so dark and powerful or whatever that the sight of them makes him come. BECAUSE NO. This generally enjoyable and readable mystery was made considerably less enjoyable and readable by tha ...more
Aug 09, 2011 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to John by: Alisa
Benjamin Black is the pseudonym for Booker-prize winning author John Banville, and this novel reads very much like a practitioner of high literary fiction swapped his tweed blazer for a trench coat. And yet Banville does not seem able to match the concomitant gait and attitude of the trench-coat wearing type.

First, there's the dense, mellifluous prose, which was very enjoyable to read on the one hand, but as the action got underway it began to bog the story down. I'm all for delayed gratificati
Julie Christine
I ate up this novel in a day. It's crime noir, set in 1950's Dublin and Boston and deals with a baby smuggling ring endorsed by the church and supported by Irish aristocracy and Boston Brahmins. The protagonist is a coroner, an alcoholic anti-hero bruised and battered by his past and lonely present. The novel was unputdownable and I can't wait to read the next in the "Quirke" series, but I'll have to: it just came out in hardcover so I can't afford it and the wait list at the library is over 100 ...more
Lewis Weinstein
A terrific read. Black has constructed a series of inter-related plot lines which he reveals slowly and under total control. Many surprises. Many serious societal issues illuminated by his far from perfect fictional characters.
Jess Van Dyne-Evans
Do you remember that song 'This is the song that never ends...'

This was the book that never ends.
Jun 17, 2014 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book by a writer I only knew so far from the foreword from the first newly printed Parker series by Richard Stark. I have as of yet not seen the TV show made of this book and its sequels.

The book does paint a dark and desperate mood in Ireland of the '50's, the main characters are not any ray of sunshine and the whole mood smells of alcohol and desperation. The main character is a nosy character who in his actions is willing to hurt anybody. He feels like a person who has lost it al
Jun 07, 2017 Karl marked it as to-read
This book is signed by the author.
Feb 02, 2013 Ellie rated it really liked it
Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (aka John Banville) is a mystery story involving babies, unwed mothers, and relationships. I read it because a) I love mysteries; b) I love Banville's writing; and, c) I was curious as to how someone who writes fiction in which there's really minimal plot would fare as a mystery writer. I discovered a) it was only ok as a mystery-but ok enough for me to start another one; b) I love his writing as Black; and c) see "a)" (but seriously, I was fascinated by the cha ...more
Mar 11, 2009 Trin rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jessica Draper
Aug 03, 2009 Jessica Draper rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 22, 2014 Ms.pegasus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of mysteries
Shelves: mystery, fiction
The crime would have gone undetected if Quirke hadn't stumbled back to his basement lair, and found his brother-in-law Malachy Griffin (Mal) hunched over his desk. This is a Dublin hospital morgue and Quirke is the chief pathologist. Mal is a distinguished obstetrician. What could he possibly be doing down there?

Black narrates in a third person voice from Quirke's viewpoint, but he adeptly pairs Quirke's own thoughts, muddled by inebriation, with the reader's natural hyper vigilance. Quirke reve
Aug 01, 2016 Tom rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery-crime
Ok, sure, sometimes Banville the lyrical stylist can muck up the pacing of Black the crime writer, and I did get a wee impatient here and there with so much description of miserable Irish weather and puffing chimneys, and abstract explanation of emotional states, but for the most part, the stylist and mystery plotter collaborate to wonderful effect. Two samples:

1) (Our man Quirke has just left a pub where he received a subtle but clearly menacing warning that "some things are best forgotten abou
Apr 09, 2010 Judy rated it liked it
In his first mystery, Benjamin Black (pen name for literary author John Banville) introduces Quirke, a pathologist in 1950s Dublin who falls into a mysterious circumstance and unwittingly becomes an amateur investigator. Quirke is an orphan, a heavy drinker, a loner. The weather is gray and rainy. His adoptive family has dirty secrets, involving pregnant women, babies, paternity and the Catholic Church. It is all very Irish, dark and hopeless.

I love dark and hopeless Irish stories but I didn't
Brent Legault
Sep 09, 2011 Brent Legault rated it really liked it
Though Banville uses a different name on this novel, his voice is more or less the same as it always is. And it's his voice that saves it from itself, from the muck and suck of the deadbeat plot.

I was led to believe this was a mystery novel. I don't know why. Maybe I led myself to believe that. Maybe it was some review I read or thought I read. But Christine Falls is not a mystery novel. It is a mysterious novel. Nothing wrong with that. Except that it also has many mystery elements to it. Whic
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Play Book Tag: Christine Falls by Benjamin Black - 4.4 stars 3 13 Apr 04, 2017 04:02AM  
The Quirke Discus...: Discussion Questions 1 15 Jul 09, 2013 01:46PM  
  • The Guards (Jack Taylor, #1)
  • Borderlands (Inspector Devlin, #1)
  • The Midnight Choir
  • The Chicago Way (Michael Kelly, #1)
  • The Ghosts of Belfast (Jack Lennon Investigations #1)
  • The Calling (Hazel Micallef Mystery #1)
  • The Death of an Irish Politician (Peter McGarr, #1)
  • Zugzwang
  • City of Lost Girls (Ed Loy, #5)
  • Athena (The Freddie Montgomery Trilogy, #3)
  • The Year of the French
  • The Cold Cold Ground (Detective Sean Duffy, #1)
  • River of Shadows
  • Field of Blood (Paddy Meehan, #1)
  • The Last Detective (Peter Diamond, #1)
Pen name for John Banville

Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland. His father worked in a garage and died when Banville was in his early thirties; his mother was a housewife. He is the youngest of three siblings; his older brother Vincent is also a novelist and has written under the name Vincent Lawrence as well as his own. His sister Vonnie Banville-Evans has written both a children's novel and a r
More about Benjamin Black...

Other Books in the Series

Quirke (7 books)
  • The Silver Swan (Quirke #2)
  • Elegy for April (Quirke #3)
  • A Death in Summer (Quirke #4)
  • Vengeance (Quirke #5)
  • Holy Orders (Quirke #6)
  • Even the Dead (Quirke #7)

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