“Am I supposed to think what he’s up to is against the law, and not just
the usual skulduggery that goes on in offices and boardrooms every day of the week?”
So asks Inspector Hackett, about mid-way through this, the fifth novel in Benjamin Black’s Quirke Dublin series. In Vengeance, Hackett has once again teamed up with his pathologist acquaintance, the moody, hard-drinking Quirke. Quirke can’t resist rummaging around and turning up stones to solve a particularly intractable murder - or indeed suicide - as in the case of this yarn.
In Hackett's above question, addressed to Quirke, the detective is referring to Jack Clancy. Hackett and Quirke are sitting in a Dublin bar musing over the bizarre suicide of Jack’s partner Victor Delahaye. He was managing director of Delahaye & Clancy, the Dublin shipping, coal, timber and garage conglomerate.
Why did Victor choose to shoot himself on his yacht, in front of Davy Clancy, son of his partner Jack? That is the immediate pressing question. Victor had only invited the 25-year-old Davy on this auspicious boating trip during the communal Delayaye-Clancy Summer holidays, customarily spent at the Delahaye's country house, Ashgrove, in West Cork.
Meanwhile, Victor’s second wife, Mona (almost half his age) doesn’t appear as upset as Victor’s sister Maggie, who is genuinely devastated by her brother’s passing. Jonas and James, Victor’s twin sons from his first marriage, aren’t exactly bawling their eyes out either.
Then there is Victor’s father, Samuel Delahaye, patriarch of the family, seething with pent-up fury in his wheelchair. He doesn't seem entirely dashed by his son 's demise either - there appear to be other reasons for his anger.
Detective Inspector Hackett's question - which opens this review - might make you think that this 313-page crime novel came straight from the stainless steel lobby of one of our present-day palaces of high finance. But spurious financial dealings went on in the Dublin of half a century ago too, the period of these atmospheric Quirke mysteries.
And the answers slowly well to the surface as John Banvile - under his Benjamin Black alias - keeps us riveted with another seedy tale. Incidentally, the Quirke novels will shortly be filmed oin location in Dublin for a forthcoming BBC series.