Monday, January 20, 2014
Review of The Silver Swan by Benjamin Black (Picador, 2007)
Compared to many contemporary crime fiction novels, which have a relatively quick pace and are packed with melodrama or dramatic action, The Silver Swan is quite sedate. Benjamin Black’s (John Banville) style is understated, atmospheric drama, told with a steady cadence of unfussy prose. It is well suited to portraying the drab city streets of Dublin and the conservative and reserved society of Ireland in the 1950s and its hidden, seedy underbelly. The book hinges on two events that at first seemed unlikely: Quirke’s decision to lie about an autopsy and his withdrawn and distant daughter taking up with the victim’s flamboyant business partner. However, the first makes some sense when placed into the context of Ireland in the 1950s, when suicide carried significant stigma, and the second works well in terms of introducing a certain edge to what is generally a quite a flat story. The plot is nicely set out and the characters well drawn, with Quirke a reticent, taciturn and troubled investigator. Overall, a tale that takes a different path to most crime fiction.