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Christine Falls: A Novel | [Benjamin Black]

Christine Falls: A Novel

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 brother-in-law, Malachy, altering a file he has no business even reading. Odd enough in itself to find Malachy there, but the next morning, when the haze has lifted, it looks an awful lot like his brother-in-law, the esteemed doctor, was in fact tampering with a corpse, and concealing the cause of death.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: Whenever I'm asked for an example of the perfect marriage of a story's characters, language, and pacing and a narrator's talent and presence, this is my first recommendation. Timothy Dalton's smoky, boozy, world-weary Irish brogue is truly haunting. He is so convincing as the fictional lead that I felt as if he was Quirke, sharing a story as he lived it. —Steve Feldberg

Publisher's Summary

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 brother-in-law, Malachy, altering a file he has no business even reading. Odd enough in itself to find Malachy there, but the next morning, when the haze has lifted, it looks an awful lot like his brother-in-law, the esteemed doctor, was in fact tampering with a corpse, and concealing the cause of death.

It turns out the body belonged to a young woman named Christine Falls. And as Quirke reluctantly presses on toward the true facts behind her death, he comes up against some insidious and very well-guarded secrets of Dublin's high Catholic society, including members of his own family.

Set in Dublin and Boston in the 1950s, the first novel in the Quirke series brings all the vividness and psychological insight of Booker Prize-winner John Banville's fiction to a thrilling, atmospheric crime story. Quirke is a fascinating and subtly drawn hero, Christine Falls is a classic tale of suspense, and Benjamin Black's debut marks him as a true master of the form.

©2006 Benjamin Black; (P)2006 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC

What the Critics Say

"In this expertly paced debut thriller from Irish author Black (the pseudonym of Booker Prize-winner John Banville), pathologist Garret Quirke uncovers a web of corruption in 1950s Dublin surrounding the death in childbirth of a young maid, Christine Falls." (Publishers Weekly)
"Christine Falls is deeply atmospheric. Clydesdales drag drays through the streets of 1950s Dublin, and the pubs are 'fuggy with turf smoke'. Nearly all the characters are painstakingly detailed and developed - even though they're likely to be morally mysterious." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (728 )
5 star
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3.4 (292 )
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Story
3.9 (298 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Kathi Sterling, VA, United States 03-26-13
    Kathi Sterling, VA, United States 03-26-13 Member Since 2010

    Love fiction--classic to light, serious to comedic. Selective non-fiction. These days lots of mysteries (not too violent, please :-)

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    "I was glued to this book--couldn't stop listening!"

    There are already many, many reviews of Christine Falls--so I don't want to add what's already been said. But hard not to--since this was simply one of the most compelling mystery novels I've heard in a while.

    The meticulously detailed writing style brings the reader/listener directly into the story--that's what makes it so engaging I think--and the author's ability to create scenes in which tension builds, leaving the listener almost leaning forward--straining for all the next words to come is what makes it so fascinating. I don't know what this would have been like to have simply read it, but the narrator managed to infuse this with a good sense of the feeling of menace and evil from the beginning.

    I gave the narrator one less star--but I'm not sure it was his fault. It could have been the recording itself--but his voice was the slightest bit muffled in places--so I had to rewind to listen (but rewind I did--as I was unwilling to miss even one word of this gripping story!)

    Is this a true mystery crime novel? Not in the classic detective sense, but there are mysterious things afoot, there is murder, and there is someone who cannot give up on trying to find out what is going on that causes all this. However, it also read like a piece of fiction--powerful writing--that happened to have a mysterious, evil underpinning. Take your choice I suppose.

    This book spans a lot of territory--two continents, families, the catholic church, and only after it was finished, did I realize that it was also a subtle exploration of the ways women (at least in that time/place) were treated as diminished, demeaned and/or expendable in many of the roles. There are several plot lines that explore that topic without it ever being totally obvious. I don't know if the author intended the reader to put that with the culture and the church aspects--or if it was simply the way things were in the early 1950's, or just the author's perspective for this book. Whatever the intent of the author, I believe it was one of the sub-messages of the book.

    I highly recommend--but will suggest this. Don't listen till you have a whole day to sit and do nothing else. You shouldn't try to do your housework, exercise in a gym, or even drive in a car while listening to this--because you don't want to take your attention away for even one moment!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Rancho Cordova, CA, United States 08-09-12
    Mary Rancho Cordova, CA, United States 08-09-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Can not recommend this read/listen"

    The author mostly spoke from inside the main characters thoughts and the actual dialogue played a lessor part. I kept hoping that I would care for or relate to a character in the story or the story itself, but it did not happen. For me, it was lacking from beginning to end. If I described it in a color, it would be Grey. At the beginning, there is an event which sparks the readers interest. Unfortunately as the story evolves, the characters are not that interesting and the ending is as the story read, flat.
    If Mr. Daltons delivery was to evoke the tone of the book, he was very successful.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dave Maine 03-30-12
    Dave Maine 03-30-12 Member Since 2004
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    "A pretentious downer of a book"

    Although the author crafts some neat descriptions and the narrator is very talented, this is a pretentious downer of a book. My most unpleasant audiobook experience ever.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marie Woodville, TX, United States 04-28-07
    Marie Woodville, TX, United States 04-28-07 Member Since 2004

    I love mysteries in the style of P.D. James, Rex Stout, Elizabeth Peters, Dave Duncan, etc. I love sci fi written by Issac Asimov (the robot books), Douglas Adams, Jack McDevitt (Alex Benedict series) and Susan Collins. I love fantasy written by Terry Pratchett, and Kim Harrison. I love Kate Morton. I don't like graphic descriptions of violence.

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    "The narrator makes this one a winner!"

    I try to avoid books that include the murder of infants, spousal abuse, and rape as part of the plot since reading is escapism for me and I want to escape to a better world this this one. However, there was no hint of those themes in the snyopsis or other reviews. But I am not sorry I chose it. In spite of those painful passages, this is a good book. But I am not recommending it for that reason -- it is for the narrator. Timothy Dalton took my breath away. What a disspointment that there are no other Audible books narrated by him. Wish I could listen to this one again, but I will have to wait for his next one.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    BeckyC 08-23-07
    BeckyC 08-23-07 Member Since 2006
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    "A disappointment"

    This book had gotten great reviews, so I was very surprised at my negative reaction. I wonder if this is the first book in my experience that is worse in the audio version than the print version. I usually love atmospheric mysteries, and these get points if set in the UK or Ireland (William Boyd's Restless is excellent). But I just could not get into this one--the characters did not seem at all believable and they all just became annoying after awhile. There were no shades of gray; even the villain was so villainous as to be tedious. A major problem for me may have been the narration--it was really overwrought. And as someone who grew up in Boston, I found the southern (?!) accents of the characters living there to be very jarring. In fairness, I should say that I did finish the book and was curious to see how it turned out. But I'm not eager to try another book by Banville/Black or one narrated by Timothy Dalton!

    12 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Polly Philadelphia, PA, United States 04-15-14
    Polly Philadelphia, PA, United States 04-15-14 Member Since 2010

    An avid reader, demanding of the story, characters and narrator. Mysteries and historical fiction are my favorites.

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    "Dreary and Pointless"

    I like "dark" books. Stories do not have to have unrealistically happy endings for me to enjoy them. But ... this book had nothing positive in it, from beginning to end. Dreary, depressing and hopeless are words I would use to describe the plot and the characters.

    The narrator is excellent. But the book is absolutely not worth reading.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    HIII Grants Pass, OR, United States 05-11-13
    HIII Grants Pass, OR, United States 05-11-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Quirkie Quark"

    Even with Timothy Dalton narrating this story was hard for me to continue listening. People with 'sick' behavior are always distressing. In Christine Falls to right the wrong Quark must destroy a close family member and the book becomes dark and sad. Dark and sad is the case here. I cannot recommend this listen only tell you the situation and let you decide for yourself.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paula Coastal New England 02-02-13
    Paula Coastal New England 02-02-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Not for fans of fast paced stories..."

    While the story is very well written, I found that most of the time I was getting lost in the dark words and soulful language of the narrator/book and not the story. I found the main character too reflective and without a lot of sympathetic traits to be likeable, at least to me, He was pitiable but not so interesting that I would like to read anymore about him. So, while the story itself did stir some emotions within me, the slow pace and plodding realizations of the main character did nothing except make me want the story to be over and done with, much like my association with most of the characters, all of whom seemed gloomy and morose. Were the 1950's really like that or is this just an Irish thing? I was glad this story finally ended and a little surprised to see that this was book 1 in a series. I might pick up book 2 if I could download it for free at the library. That way, if it continues down the same dark, foreboding path I can shut it off, delete it from my player and not worry about a wasted credit.

    In summary, read this if you enjoy doing penance, wearing a sackcloth and weeping in your beverage of choice, for all the sad, literary characters you can think of, otherwise you might want to steer clear of this one.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sherry Lakeland, FL, United States 02-02-13
    Sherry Lakeland, FL, United States 02-02-13 Member Since 2012
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    "No go for me"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Nothing


    What could Benjamin Black have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Not sure


    How could the performance have been better?

    Too.slow


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Good twists just not an enjoyable story linr very dull


    Any additional comments?

    Others may like this book, this is just not my personal style of reading

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Harris Mitchel Grp Kingston Springs, tn United States 01-04-12
    David Harris Mitchel Grp Kingston Springs, tn United States 01-04-12 Listener Since 2001
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    "Mystery without apologies"

    I'm not really a big fan of mysteries, but there are a few authors I'll read: Kate Wilhelm for the characters, Ellis Peters for the backgrounds, Tony Hillerman for the textures of Navajo life. Now I can add Benjamin Black to the list. Unsurprisingly (in his other identity of John Banville, he is a Booker Prize-winning literary novelist), Black writes fine novels that happen also to be mysteries.

    Some level of mystery is an element of most literary novels. How will the protagonist resolve this problem? But Quirk, Black's hero in this series, is a pathologist, the man who does the post-mortem on patients and on his own sins, as he sees it. He is, in fact, no more a sinner than the rest of us, but being an Irish Catholic in the 1950's, he feels it more strongly. And it is his character that keeps us enthralled from book to book.

    The mystery here is more than sufficiently complex, but it is used as a vehicle for a portrait of a world, of the power elite of a place and time that was no more or less corrupt than any other. Even the villains are human, and get to speak for themselves.

    Actually, Timothy Dalton speaks for them, and there are few readers who are better than he. Don't think of him as James Bond, but as, say, the young king of France in The Lion in Winter, and you'll get an idea of just how fine an edge he brings to these books.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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