“[Quirke’s] a kind of innocent, you know, in spite of everything. That’s what your late grandfather used to say about him. Quirke’s a damn fool, John would say. He thinks a good man can set the world to right, all the while not seeing that the last thing folks want is the world to be as it should be.”
At first, I thought Benjamin Black’s A Death in Summer was an average book, but I was wrong.
There was so much for me to dislike about the book. First, Dr. Garret Quirke, the protagonist, is painfully self-absorbed.
Then, sometimes it seemed like I had to read fifty pages of psychological description to get to one fact, one morsel which advanced the story. (That was especially true at the end when I wanted to know what happened.)
And finally, the story is so bleak. The story involves such terrible things.
Someone shotguns a wealthy Irish businessman named Richard Jewell. Many have good reason to have done the deed.
Quirke becomes involved with Jewell’s French-born wife, throwing over another woman to do so.
Two men attack Quirke’s assistant, Sinclair, cutting off his right ring finger. The finger ends up in a little package hanging on Quirke’s front doorknob.
All this leads Quirke to delve into events which make the original murder seem more than tame. It seems justifiable.
Even more than that, the murder comes to seem like the only possible thing for the killer to have done.
No one is a hero. All but a few of the characters are drenched in evil. The most admirable person in the story is a pathetically insane young woman who, in her confusion, tries to do what’s right.
This is not a story you enjoy. It is not even a story which you think about a lot. It more like a story that sticks in your mind, reminds you that there are depraved people and institutions in the world.
I won’t say much more about this book. Whatever its weaknesses, this book is not an entertainment as some mysteries are. It is a whole lot more than that.