Thursday, April 9, 2020

Review of Holy Orders by Benjamin Black (2013, Picador)

Jimmy Minor, a newspaper reporter, is retrieved from a canal where he’d been dumped after a savage beating. The corpse ends up on Quirke’s slab in the pathology lab. Quirke is familiar with the reporter, who is a friend of his daughter, Phoebe. Along with Inspector Hackett, he starts to investigate the death following two clues: a letter to a priest and a note concerning tinkers. This is a reasonably long book about a quite simple case. There was plenty of opportunity to turn it into a more complex or interesting investigation by exploring the Church, newspaper or tinker angles and leveraging in intrigue and conflict through them. Instead, there is the start of a thread related to Jimmy’s newspaper that goes nowhere, and the Church thread kind of goes the same way. Instead, what we get are long passages concerning Quirke’s state of mind and his relationships to those around him, and dozens of pages about his daughter and her life that’s stuck in a rut. Interesting in their own way but introspective and they barely move the story forward. The result is a book much more about the characters than the plot, yet the characters were not that fascinating.

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