Thursday, July 26, 2012
Vengeance, by Benjamin Black
Henry Holt, 2012 (August)
arc, thank you!!!
"He tried not to think of what was below the surface, of the murk down there, the big-eyed fish nosing along, and things with claws scuttling around on the bottom, fighting in slow motion, devouring each other."
My thanks to Librarything's early reviewers program and to Henry Holt for sending this copy. Book number five in Black's excellent Quirke novels, Vengeance continues the winning streak of beautiful writing and excellent characterizations found throughout the rest of the series. Black gets more playful with his language and literary references, the characters continue to deepen in scope, and the mystery is a definite conundrum that will keep you guessing up until the very end. After I was finished with this one, I put the book down and said out loud to no one in particular, "damn! Now that was one ****ing good book!" I shouldn't have been so surprised at how very good it is, since it's another one of Black's very intensely satisfying novels. Feel free to disagree all you want, but after reading all five novels in one fell swoop over the course of a week and a half, my conclusion is that the Quirke series is definitely one of the best and most intelligently-written out there.
As the novel opens, Davy Clancy is on Victor Delahaye's sailboat, Quicksilver, after being invited to accompany Delahaye for the day. Invite isn't the right word, actually, since Delahaye is the big boss of the firm owned jointly by both families, and Davy can't really refuse. Davy "was not a good sailor, in fact he was secretly afraid of the sea." Out of nowhere, Delahaye takes out a pistol wrapped in an oily rag and shoots himself. Frightened out of his wits, Davy takes the gun and tosses it overboard. He has no idea how to sail the Quicksilver, and he drifts along, waiting for rescue. The death is confirmed as a suicide, leading to one question, so beautifully voiced some time later in the thoughts of Victor's sister Maggie:
"...why had Victor taken him out in the boat -- why him? It had been Victor's way of sending a message, of leaving a signal as to why he had done what he had done. But what message was it, and to whom did he think he was directing it?"
The answer, as Quirke is about to discover, is not one to be revealed quickly or easily. The Delahayes are a formidable clan -- rich and powerful, but as with most families in Black's novels, filled with secrets. The wealthy Clancys have their secrets as well, but the Clancy side of the business is viewed with disdain by the Delahayes, who consider the Clancys their inferiors. When a second death occurs, the mystery only deepens.
If you want to read more, make your way on over to the Crime Segments for the rest.