Friday, June 3, 2016
Review of Elegy for April by Benjamin Black (Picador, 2010)
Elegy for April is the third instalment of the Quirke series and the best so far, in my view. The story concerns the search, against the family’s wishes, for a female doctor who has disappeared. The strength of the tale is its evocative atmosphere of fog and smoke, family and secrets, and scandal and power, and its focus on the sexual politics of conservative Ireland in the 1950s. Black evokes a certain mood, sense of place and social relations that draws the reader into a gloomy, drab Dublin. Although a pathologist, Quirke is cast as a kind of disillusioned, drunken, anti-establishment PI who challenges convention and blunders his way towards truth and love, often losing as much as he gains in the process. While the plotting is stronger than the first two outings it still seems to play second fiddle at times to the atmosphere, characterisation and social context, and the denouement felt somewhat contrived and strained. Nonetheless, it’s an enjoyable read and has persuaded me to persist with the series.