I have always been intrigued by authors who take side journeys, a busman’s holiday is the phrase that is often used, and take up writing books under another name, often in a departure from the style and character type that they are best known for. Is it just the itch of a muse that drives them or is the style switch really the direction they’d rather be taking?
Holy Orders: A Quirke Novel is the sixth installment on the ongoing series by Irish author John Banville, writing as Benjamin Black. In this audiobook version of the tale, reader John Keating does an admirable job of bringing voice to the range of characters. While this is my first foray into the Quirke series, I found myself taking some leaps in logic to fill in for my lack of knowledge of what has gone before, because Black doesn’t spend a lot of time on backfilling the storyline.
Holy Orders is a deeply dark and brooding tale on many levels; there is the main storyline of the mystery surrounding the death of newspaper reporter Jimmy Minor, who boyish corpse is fished out of the river, leading Quirke and company to investigate an allegedly do-gooder priest, that runs parallel to the often alcohol fueled psychological meltdown that Quirke seems to be experiencing played of the background of his abusive upbringing in a Catholic orphanage.
Black/Banville do an amazing job of capturing the gloomy loam of the Emerald Isle, sprinkling in descriptive settings that have a lived in feel and just enough quirky characters to keep the reader/listener guessing where things will turn next. It’s clear that the author is not done with Quirke’s psychological torment based on the dangling story that gets left unresolved.