Benjamin Black – aka John Banville – is back for another round of detective fun with
"http://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Summer-Benjamin-Black/dp/0330539906/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1316005925&sr=8-3">A Death in Summer. Does the crossover magic work for a fifth
In the Guardian, Mark Lawson admires the way Black’s hero, Quirke,
alludes to heroes of the detective genre: "He is known only by his surname (Dexter’s Morse), is an alcoholic chainsmoker (Rankin’s Rebus), loves poetry (P.D. James’s
Dalgleish), has a difficult relationship with a daughter (Mankell’s Wallander) and has difficulty in sustaining relationships (everyone’s everyone)." What such allusion amounts to,
Lawson claims, is ‘a respect for the form in which he has chosen to work." On which note, Lawson adds: "…the knowing references to 007 elsewhere, made me think that Banville
would be an interesting bet for one of the Bond continuations…’ Such a move would, indeed, have historical precedent: Kinglsey Amis won the Booker and also wrote a Bond novel.
Barry Forshaw, for the Independent, praises the
setting: "the Dublin here has a richness reminiscent of the city’s greatest chronicler, Joyce, while the 1950s are evoked with pinpoint precision." However, he criticises
Black’s skill with plot: "everything is supremely functional, but seems utilitarian rather than inspired." In contrast to Raymond Chandler whose "genius was to reinvent the
tropes of detective fiction so consummately that readers barely noticed the rickety narrative structure…Black’s use of such legerdemain is less sure."
In a summer crime round-up for the Telegraph, Julia Handford notes that "John
Banville must enjoy slumming it as Benjamin Black because this is the fourth of his pseudonymous crime novels to feature Quirke and the poverty-stricken streets of Fifties Dublin." And, by
virtue of such practice, he has honed his skills. She declares that: ‘Black is an excellent writer…and is now so confident in his handling of his chosen genre that he provides a clue
to the mystery on the very first page.’
Marcel Berlins, in the Times (£), laments the change in the character of Quirke: "At
the beginning Quirke wandered into detection by accident; grudgingly, eccentrically, a rather chaotic figure, full of bizarre family problems." In his latest incarnation, however, he has
become "more confident, friends with his once-remote daughter, performing a slick double-act with Inspector Hackett of the Garda, and even developing a love interest with the dead man’s widow
– unthinkable a few books ago." Berlins, however, pines for the earlier version: "…Quirke is an engaging character. I just found him more interesting when he was more shambolic."