When newspaper magnate Richard Jewell is found dead at his country estate, clutching a shotgun in his lifeless hands, few see his demise as cause for sorrow. But before long Doctor Quirke and Inspector Hackett realise that, rather than the suspected suicide, ‘Diamond Dick’ has in fact been murdered. Jewell had made many enemies over the years and suspicion soon falls on one of his biggest rivals. But as Quirke and his assistant Sinclair get to know Jewell’s beautiful, enigmatic wife Françoise d’Aubigny, and his fragile sister Dannie, as well as those who work for the family, it gradually becomes clear that all is not as it seems. As Quirke’s investigations return him to the notorious orphanage of St Christopher’s, where he once resided, events begin to take a much darker turn. Quirke finds himself reunited with an old enemy and Sinclair receives sinister threats. But what have the shadowy benefactors of St Christopher’s to do with it all? Against the backdrop of 1950’s Dublin, Benjamin Black conjures another atmospheric, beguiling mystery.All of which sounds like a tongue-in-cheek Agatha Christie homage and / or parody, which would be no bad thing. And, given that John Banville toiled for many years with ink-stained fingers among the great and good of Irish journalism, it’ll be interesting to see if ‘Diamond Dick’ is modelled on any of said great and good.
Meanwhile, and not wanting to waste a cheese-tastic Italian headline pun, Conor Fitzgerald publishes the second in his Rome-set Alec Blume series, THE FATAL TOUCH. To wit:
In the early hours of a Saturday morning, a body is discovered in Piazza de’ Renzi. If it was just a simple fall that killed him, why is a senior Carabiniere officer so interested? Commissioner Alec Blume is immediately curious and the discovery of the dead man’s notebooks reveals that there is a great deal more at stake than the unfortunate death of a down-and-out ... What secrets did he know that might have made him a target? What is the significance of the Galleria Orpiment? And why are the authorities so intent on blocking Blume’s investigations?I thoroughly enjoyed Fitzgerald’s debut, THE DOGS OF ROME, and I wasn’t alone. “A powerful and hugely compelling novel. Dark, worldly and written with tremendous style and assurance,” reckoned William Boyd. “The American-born Blume is an engaging hero who might just have to potential to fill the gap left when Michael Dibdin’s death ended his Italian detective Aurelio Zen’s investigations,” vouchsafed the Sunday Times. “Blumein’ marvellous,” Crime Always Pays barely restrained itself from quipping.
Conor Fitzgerald as the new Michael Dibdin? I’ll buy that for a dollar …