Christine Falls by Benjamin Black

Christine Falls by Benjamin Black is the debut crime novel by acclaimed Booker Prize winning author John Banville. Mr. Banville uses a pen-name here, but Christine Falls is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Christine Falls is a tightly written psychological mystery/thriller equal to the best of them. Benjamin Black may be the heir apparent to P.D. James’ throne.

The story here concerns Quirke Griffin, a pathologist rescued from an orphanage and raised by the powerful Judge Garret Griffin. Quirke becomes obsessed with a young mother, Christine Falls, who died in child birth, after he catches his brother by adoption Malachy, who is also a doctor, apparently trying to falsify the deceased’s medical records. This begins a long journey for Quirke which will lead to the discovery of a clandestine organization determined to take “unwanted” children from Ireland to “better lives” with adoptive parents in America.

What makes Christine Falls so memorable is the depth of the characterization. Even the minor characters are fleshed out enough to stand on their own. The major characters are a fascinating mess. It’s often difficult to determine who the real villains are, or even if there are any. Looking at the bigger picture, the novel asks if bringing unwanted children to a better life is really all that bad? Quirke thinks that it is, and his determination to expose the operation and to stop it has dire consequences. It may be the right thing to do but it comes at a price.


I’m a little embarrassed by this review.  I first ran it in late 2008 on my earlier blog, Ready When You Are, C.B.  I stand by my comments as far as the book goes. Even though I was not fan of Mr. Banville’s follow-up to Christine Falls, Christine Falls is a wonderful novel.  What embarrasses me is that bit about the heir to P.D. James’ throne.  As if I’m an expert on P.D. James.  I will admit, here, that I’ve never read a P.D. James mystery.   John Banville may very well be her heir, but I’ve no way to know that.

3 thoughts on “Christine Falls by Benjamin Black

  1. I have a couple of the Benjamin Black books and although I am a fan of Banville and a lover of crime, I’ve never given them a go. This one sounds great though so I must dig it out.

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