Even the Dead, by Benjamin Black (aka John Banville)

As we all know, John Banville is a masterful writer. And as Benjamin Black, he assumes the mantle of another masterful writer.  His latest noirish mystery is Even the Dead, which brings us Dublin pathologist Dr. Quirke and his foolhardy investigations into corruption among the holy and powerful in postwar Ireland.

In a slight deviation from the standard noir format, Quirke’s hard drinking isn’t romanticized at all. It’s catching up with him. That, and the severe beating from a previous novel, have left him with cognitive problems described as “absence seizures.”

The tale begins with Quirke on medical leave after “taking the cure” in hospital. He’s back in Dublin and mostly abstaining… meaning abstaining from liquor. Beer and wine don’t count, apparently. But his former assistant has a quick question for him about a suspicious death, and we’re back to the game again. The victim’s father is a controversial political figure… is this a clue or a coincidence?

This is everything I’d hoped it would be: excellent writing, gripping thrills, plus enough thoughtful insights into culture and society that I don’t feel that it’s literary junk food.

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