A bizarre suicide leads to a scandal and then still more blood, as one of our most brilliant crime novelists reveals a world where money and sex trump everything
It's a fine day for a sail, and Victor Delahaye, one of Ireland's most successful businessmen, takes his boat far out to sea. With him is his partner's son—who becomes the sole witness when Delahaye produces a pistol, points it at his own chest, and fires.
This mysterious death immediately engages the attention of Detective Inspector Hackett, who in turn calls upon the services of his sometime partner Quirke, consultant pathologist at the Hospital of the Holy Family. The stakes are high: Delahaye's prominence in business circles means that Hackett and Quirke must proceed very carefully. Among others, they interview Mona Delahaye, the dead man's young and very beautiful wife; James and Jonas Delahaye, his identical twin sons; and Jack Clancy, his ambitious, womanizing partner. But then a second death occurs, this one even more shocking than the first, and quickly it becomes apparent that a terrible secret threatens to destroy the lives and reputations of several members of Dublin's elite.
Why did Victor Delahaye kill himself, and who is intent upon wreaking vengeance on so many of those who knew him?
Bestseller Black's understated but highly effective fifth crime novel featuring 1950s Dublin pathologist Quirke (after 2011's A Death in Summer) offers a provocative whydunit. One sunny June day, Victor Delahaye takes Davy Clancy, the 24-year-old son of his garage business partner, out for a sail in his yacht off the Irish coast. Delahaye tells Davy a story of his childhood involving a lesson in self-reliance, then pulls out a pistol and shoots himself in the chest. In a panic, Davy picks up the gun and tosses it overboard as Delahaye expires. Later, once Davy's safely ashore, the authorities readily accept his account of the suicide. Less clear is the motive, given Delahaye's financial success, a question that becomes more urgent when someone else connected with the garage partnership turns up dead. Superior prose ("Spoiled children had that look, of knowing deep down that all the petting and the pampering might at any moment just stop, without the slightest warning") and a subtle mystery ensure another winner for Black (the pseudonym of Booker-winner John Banville).