Black, Benjamin: Elegy for April
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In Benjamin Black's third novel featuring Dublin pathologist Garret Quirke, Quirke wrestles with sobriety--his earlier resolution to stay on the wagon didn't take--and stumbles into yet another unofficial case involving a young woman in trouble. This time the girl is April Latimer, a doctor in Quirke's hospital, though he doesn't know her, and a friend of Quirke's daughter Phoebe. April is also a member of what amounts to aristocracy in Dublin: her father was a war hero; her uncle is the Minister of Health. It's a family that's used to burying skeletons, and they're not very pleased when Quirke injects himself into what they consider a purely personal affair.
A theme runs through the Quirke books, and it's in evidence here: people--even one's closest friends and relatives--don't reveal the entire truth about themselves, so you can never really know them. April's family shows the world a false image of itself. Quirke's own family was built on lies. And now Phoebe, who learned in young adulthood that even her most basic assumptions about her world were erroneous, discovers that her friends--April and the other half of their unlikely quartet--aren't quite what she thought them either.
What's odd about this story, like the first two in the series, is that nothing seems to be approached in a straightforward manner. People are loath to ask the obvious questions of April's family and of one another. Quirke seems to leave the room as soon as someone is likely to say something edifying. Criminal wrongdoing is more likely to end in a resigned shrug than in prosecution. I can't see how a society can conduct itself in this way, but that's how Quirke's world seems to operate. Much as I don't feel comfortable in it, I enjoy the dreary milieu Black has painted for Quirke as well as the character of Quirke himself.