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I start a lot of books I don't finish. I usually give it a couple of hours if it's an audiobook. Once I gave a book 7 hours before quitting because I thought it was going to get better; but it didn't ("An Unpardonable Crime"). This one got me from the first line. Timothy Dalton narrates with a deep rich Welsh accent - think Dylan Thomas if you've ever heard him, an octave lower, or Richard Burton. Of all of this audiobook's virtues, quite apart from how good it is substantially, the narration is its most attractive asset. If you like thrillers and mysteries that you don't have forgive the quality of the writing to enjoy, you'll love this. The writing is extraordinary.
The plot follows a more or less formulaic path, but illuminates the genre even as it moves through its generic rules. The setting is Dublin for the most part, and Boston in the 1950s. The protagonist, aptly named "Quirke" is a forensic patholigist (in the US we call them coroners) who, in the book's opening scene, stumbles upon his brother in law - also a doctor, an obstetrician - in the act of falsifying information in a file of one of the corpses Quirke hasn't examined yet. This initiates an obsession on Quirke's fault to find out what happened to this woman (the eponymous Christine Falls), who allegedly died giving birth to a stillborn infant girl. Well, the little girl wasn't stillborn, the truth leads Quirke on a journey into a darkness of which Christine Falls was only one of many victims, and that's all I'm going to tell you about the plot. I loved this audiobook and would recommend it over the print version, which from me, is a big compliment.
37 of 40 people found this review helpful
There are already many, many reviews of Christine Falls--so I don't want to add what's already been said. But hard not to--since this was simply one of the most compelling mystery novels I've heard in a while.
The meticulously detailed writing style brings the reader/listener directly into the story--that's what makes it so engaging I think--and the author's ability to create scenes in which tension builds, leaving the listener almost leaning forward--straining for all the next words to come is what makes it so fascinating. I don't know what this would have been like to have simply read it, but the narrator managed to infuse this with a good sense of the feeling of menace and evil from the beginning.
I gave the narrator one less star--but I'm not sure it was his fault. It could have been the recording itself--but his voice was the slightest bit muffled in places--so I had to rewind to listen (but rewind I did--as I was unwilling to miss even one word of this gripping story!)
Is this a true mystery crime novel? Not in the classic detective sense, but there are mysterious things afoot, there is murder, and there is someone who cannot give up on trying to find out what is going on that causes all this. However, it also read like a piece of fiction--powerful writing--that happened to have a mysterious, evil underpinning. Take your choice I suppose.
This book spans a lot of territory--two continents, families, the catholic church, and only after it was finished, did I realize that it was also a subtle exploration of the ways women (at least in that time/place) were treated as diminished, demeaned and/or expendable in many of the roles. There are several plot lines that explore that topic without it ever being totally obvious. I don't know if the author intended the reader to put that with the culture and the church aspects--or if it was simply the way things were in the early 1950's, or just the author's perspective for this book. Whatever the intent of the author, I believe it was one of the sub-messages of the book.
I highly recommend--but will suggest this. Don't listen till you have a whole day to sit and do nothing else. You shouldn't try to do your housework, exercise in a gym, or even drive in a car while listening to this--because you don't want to take your attention away for even one moment!
8 of 8 people found this review helpful