About a decade ago, acclaimed Irish novelist John Banville wrote the first in a series of literary crime novels under the pseudonym Benjamin Black. Set in 1950s Dublin, the novels, featuring pathologist Dr. Quirke and his sidekick Detective Hackett, were surprising best sellers. Emboldened by his success in the mystery market, Banville recently published a new crime novel under his own name.
The new novel, Snow, is also set in Ireland. In the winter of 1957, the morose Anglo-Irish Detective St. John Strafford is summoned to the ancestral home of the aristocratic Osborne family to investigate the murder of a parish priest. He is accompanied by his unpopular, peculiarly flat headed Sergeant, Ambie Jenkins.
While Strafford struggles to determine who done it, the reader will not. Father Tom’s friendship with several young boys, his involvement with a creepy boys’ orphanage, and the mutilation of his body make the motive, if not the specific perpetrator, painfully obvious. Strafford however staggers cluelessly about the snowy countryside for 299 pages before figuring it out.
Banville’s stylish prose and the vividly depicted oppressive atmosphere of 1950s Ireland don’t make up for the sluggish pace of the story. Not recommended.
But if you haven’t read the much superior Quirke novels, check them out . (Also, a BBC three-part series starring Gabriel Byrne as Quirke was broadcast on PBS in 2015.)