The Silver Swan by Benjamin Black (audio)

swanThis is book 2 in a series, because I couldn’t find book 1; so be it. You know I don’t bother too much with these things, anyway.

Set in Dublin, and thus very enjoyable as an audiobook with those Irish accents – various Irish accents based on region, of course. I’m no connoisseur of dialect but I can hear the different effect coming through and I appreciate it. Having visited there now, too, I think I might call an Irish accent the most musical and pleasant to listen to that I know.

Our protagonist (I started to call him a hero; but I think the jury is out) is named Quirke, and he’s a pathologist, meaning he performs autopsies. The scene is set when an old friend – hardly more than an acquaintance – from school calls up to request that Quirke forgo cutting open his recently dead wife, Deidre Hunt, professionally known as Laura Swan. (No, not what you’re thinking. She’s a beautician.) Deirdre is an apparent suicide. Quirke goes poking around where he doesn’t belong. He behaves awfully like a detective, but of course he isn’t; although it is hinted at that in the first tale of his adventures, Christine Falls, which I missed, Quirke likewise tried to do the cops’ job for them, and it didn’t turn out well for him. Ah well, these hard-boiled types never learn, and Quirke goes looking into Deirdre’s life and habits. He discovers a former lover with an angry wife, and some financial troubles, but none of that is as interesting as Quirke’s own family drama. Apparently he had a daughter who was passed off as his niece until just a few years ago; so he has a “new”, adult child; and she becomes embroiled herself with Deirdre Hunt’s life and menfolk. Oh, and Quirke has the classic characteristic of being a reformed or reforming alcoholic; there are scenes where he hangs out in bars (to talk to his informant) and yearns for a drink. No real new ground there.

As a mystery, there were a few odd elements here. Quirke behaves very much like a detective, which is tolerated surprisingly well by everyone, including the detectives; yes, there’s a little complaining, but no efforts to limit his actions. On top of that, I thought the husband was a fine suspect from the very start – that is, once we’ve established that Deirdre was murdered, which is a conclusion danced around for much of the book. The husband then requests that no autopsy be performed; and yet Quirke never really does get around to suspecting him. I was left feeling that I had missed something; and maybe I did, but I think in that case at least some of the blame falls on the story.

I enjoyed this read somewhat, but frankly, I think most of my enjoyment lay in the lovely Irish voices telling the story. Other than that, it was just fine.


Rating: 5 very neutral shrugs of my shoulders for this one.

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