With humidity as thick as molasses, an Irish heat wave threatens to bring Dublin to a slow crawl in this 1950s drama. Like Ireland itself, time moves slowly and this novel could have been written in a time dating from 1920s forward. Only references to concentration camps and the French resistance give us an accuracy to bring time forward.
Like a take-off on Holmes and Watson, Inspector Hackett and his trusted partner, pathologist Dr. Quirke make an odd pair poking around in the affairs of dead newspaper owner, Richard ‘Diamond Dick’ Jewell. In a country still torn with prejudice after World War II the Irish seem surprised to find a Jewish conclave here in Dublin, one treated with respect unless they happen to get in the way. Jewell apparently got in someone’s way.
Dropping clues like flies on a sticky summer day, Black allows us to see ahead of his investigators and we want to shout out warnings and have them discard the red-herrings. As the only so-human, flawed protagonist, Quirke, stumbles blindly ahead, only seeing the clues like a mole suddenly blinded by the bright sky after sticking his snout of a hole for the first time. Surely he can’t help but notice what he has been tripping over, especially when a bloody finger is attached to his front door in an envelope.
Jewell’s death has so many possible suspects that it takes the entire book to whittle them down slowly, one at a time keeping you guessing until the very end. The plodding pace of the book helps evolve the storyline and makes this one worth hanging in there until the inevitable conclusion.