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April in Spain

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*NATIONAL BESTSELLER* Booker Prize winner John Banville returns with a dark and evocative new mystery set on the Spanish coast Don't disturb the dead… On the idyllic coast of San Sebastian, Spain, Dublin pathologist Quirke is struggling to relax, despite the beaches, cafés and the company of his disarmingly lovely wife. When he glimpses a familiar face in the twilight at Las *NATIONAL BESTSELLER* Booker Prize winner John Banville returns with a dark and evocative new mystery set on the Spanish coast Don't disturb the dead… On the idyllic coast of San Sebastian, Spain, Dublin pathologist Quirke is struggling to relax, despite the beaches, cafés and the company of his disarmingly lovely wife. When he glimpses a familiar face in the twilight at Las Acadas bar, it's hard at first to tell whether his imagination is just running away with him. Because this young woman can't be April Latimer. She was murdered by her brother, years ago—the conclusion to an unspeakable scandal that shook one of Ireland's foremost political dynasties. Unable to ignore his instincts, Quirke makes a call back home to Ireland and soon Detective St. John Strafford is dispatched to Spain. But he's not the only one en route. A relentless hit man is on the hunt for his latest prey, and the next victim might be Quirke himself. Sumptous, propulsive and utterly transporting, April in Spain is the work of a master writer at the top of his game.


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*NATIONAL BESTSELLER* Booker Prize winner John Banville returns with a dark and evocative new mystery set on the Spanish coast Don't disturb the dead… On the idyllic coast of San Sebastian, Spain, Dublin pathologist Quirke is struggling to relax, despite the beaches, cafés and the company of his disarmingly lovely wife. When he glimpses a familiar face in the twilight at Las *NATIONAL BESTSELLER* Booker Prize winner John Banville returns with a dark and evocative new mystery set on the Spanish coast Don't disturb the dead… On the idyllic coast of San Sebastian, Spain, Dublin pathologist Quirke is struggling to relax, despite the beaches, cafés and the company of his disarmingly lovely wife. When he glimpses a familiar face in the twilight at Las Acadas bar, it's hard at first to tell whether his imagination is just running away with him. Because this young woman can't be April Latimer. She was murdered by her brother, years ago—the conclusion to an unspeakable scandal that shook one of Ireland's foremost political dynasties. Unable to ignore his instincts, Quirke makes a call back home to Ireland and soon Detective St. John Strafford is dispatched to Spain. But he's not the only one en route. A relentless hit man is on the hunt for his latest prey, and the next victim might be Quirke himself. Sumptous, propulsive and utterly transporting, April in Spain is the work of a master writer at the top of his game.

30 review for April in Spain

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paromjit

    John Banville writes his latest historical offering in the Dr Quirke, Irish State Pathologist series under his own name, featuring DI Strafford from Snow in a minor yet instrumental role. The curmudgeon and old soak that is Quirke is not a man for holidays, but he is a married man, dare one even say happily married, to the Austrian psychiatrist, Evelyn, and she is a force of nature in her own right. So there they are in Franco's Spain, at the beautiful Basque coastal town of San Sebastian, with John Banville writes his latest historical offering in the Dr Quirke, Irish State Pathologist series under his own name, featuring DI Strafford from Snow in a minor yet instrumental role. The curmudgeon and old soak that is Quirke is not a man for holidays, but he is a married man, dare one even say happily married, to the Austrian psychiatrist, Evelyn, and she is a force of nature in her own right. So there they are in Franco's Spain, at the beautiful Basque coastal town of San Sebastian, with Quirke who can't quite trust his happiness as he frets and wonders if Evelyn will leave him. Banville paints a complex and intimate picture of their marriage and love, but a serpent is about to enter their paradise when Quirke thinks he recognises a ghost from the past and an old Irish scandal, a friend of his daughter, Phoebe, April Latimer, dead at the hands of her brother, Oscar. Could it be April going under the name of Dr Angela Lawless? Quirke, being an obstinate and stubborn fellow, can't let it go, something he will live to regret as he opens a can of worms that is slowly and inevitably going to spiral into tragedy. He goes as far as inviting Angela to a toe curlingly socially awkward dinner that he revels in, asking Phoebe to come over to see if it is April. Phoebe has been in a relationship with Paul Viertel, a cold fish of a boyfriend for a while, and she makes a fatal error when she takes it upon herself to let powerful political forces know about April resurfacing, forces that cannot let April live to air a family's dirty secrets. Phoebe travels to Spain, with an armed DI Strafford accompanying her, with an underlying certainty that April is alive. However, someone else is coming too, a hitman, Terry Tice, a dangerous man who has never failed to carry out any of his past assignments. Banville expertly weaves a spellbinding mystery with his beautiful prose and stellar abilities when it comes to complex flawed characterisations and complicated relationships. He hits all the hot buttons when it comes to Ireland, the abuse and cruelty within the Catholic Church as illustrated by Tice's childhood as a orphan. There are the horrors of what can go on in powerful Irish families behind closed doors, as can be seen with what happened to Oscar and April, and corrupt politicians who believe they are untouchable. Then there is, of course, little chance of Irish storytelling being complete without a mention of terrorism and the IRA in this historical period. I found this to be a wonderfully engaging read, so well written and so riveting, and particularly liked the references to Pinkie from Graham Greene's Brighton Rock. I think this historical novel will appeal to a wide range of readers, including those who love mysteries and literary fiction. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Exposed It’s always a rewarding choice to read John Banville. His latest novel, April in Spain, is another absorbing and fascinating mystery that finds Irish pathologist, Dr Quirke, on holiday with his wife in sun-drenched and atmospheric Spain. He thinks he recognises a young Irish woman that was presumed dead. Quirke believes the young female doctor called Angela is, in fact, April Latimer, a friend of his daughter Phoebe’s. His association with the family is that April was apparently murdered Exposed It’s always a rewarding choice to read John Banville. His latest novel, April in Spain, is another absorbing and fascinating mystery that finds Irish pathologist, Dr Quirke, on holiday with his wife in sun-drenched and atmospheric Spain. He thinks he recognises a young Irish woman that was presumed dead. Quirke believes the young female doctor called Angela is, in fact, April Latimer, a friend of his daughter Phoebe’s. His association with the family is that April was apparently murdered by her brother, who then committed suicide while in Quirke’s company. Even though April’s uncle is a high-ranking government minister, the Latimer family is steeped in dark criminal activities. Quirke is someone who cannot let things go and is determined to prove his intuition is correct. When he discusses this with Phoebe and invites her out to Spain to confirm his suspicions, he doesn’t realise the chain of events he is about to unleash and what secrets some people have tried so hard to hide. Perhaps Angela has good reason to deceive everyone and fade far out of sight. When Phoebe inquiries about April back in Dublin and reveals that she may be living in Spain, certain people are alerted, and the only satisfactory outcome is to ensure she dies - they need a killer. In a parallel thread, the life of Terry Tice is unfolding to illustrate a psychopath with no compunction in killing anyone where death serves a purpose. His personality and background are deftly drawn, and the mental processes of a cold-blooded hitman are chillingly depicted. The two threads are destined to converge, and as they do, detective St John Strafford (from Snow) finds himself at the heart of the plot. John Banville has a very understated writing style that cleverly captivates a reader while building fully formed characters. Our perception ranges from great empathy and a loving connection to chilling killers that can shock our norms. The characters are all compelling, but several frustrated me so much that if I’d gotten my hands on them, we wouldn’t have needed Tice. What frustrated me most was the decision from Quirke to open this pandora's box for such a small motivation. While he did question his decision to do so, he nevertheless pursued his impulse. What is notable with this book is that it is listed as the eighth book in the Quirke series but also the follow-up to his previous novel, Snow. The Quirke series was written under Banville’s pen name, Benjamin Black, but this book is credited to John Banville. The follow-up to Snow is acknowledged because we encounter the return of detective St John Strafford, although not as the main character. I read this book as a buddy read with my dear friend Ceecee, and as always, I loved discussing various aspects of the story with her. Ceecee’s review is wonderful, and I thank her for joining me on this journey. I would recommend this book, and I would like to thank Faber & Faber and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in return for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ceecee

    Dublin pathologist Dr Quirke is uncomfortably on holiday in San Sebastián with his wife Evelyn when an incident shucking oysters necessitates a hospital visit. Whilst he’s convinced he sees April Latimer, a friend of his daughter Phoebe but that’s impossible isn’t it, because she’s dead, murdered by her own brother. Is it April in Spain??? Only time will tell .... First of all, this is an excellent character driven slow burner mystery that takes us to the heart of Dublin politics with a high rank Dublin pathologist Dr Quirke is uncomfortably on holiday in San Sebastián with his wife Evelyn when an incident shucking oysters necessitates a hospital visit. Whilst he’s convinced he sees April Latimer, a friend of his daughter Phoebe but that’s impossible isn’t it, because she’s dead, murdered by her own brother. Is it April in Spain??? Only time will tell .... First of all, this is an excellent character driven slow burner mystery that takes us to the heart of Dublin politics with a high ranking family and then we have a puzzle in Spain. The quality of the writing is so good that the author pulls you effortlessly into the narrative and fully engages you. All the characters are well portrayed, they’re complex though by no means all likeable. John Banville is as skilled with his characterisation as an artist with a colour palette, with deft strokes he conveys the saturnine nature of Quirke, the wonderful calm wisdom of survivor Evelyn, the brutishness of Terry Tice who is the villain of the piece and the smug dismissive weasel nature of April’s Uncle William. I really like the contrast between several reflective characters such as Quirke and policeman Strafford with the violent intolerance of Tice; they are complete polar opposites. Equally deftly painted are the settings which spring to life before your eye especially Franco’s Spain. It’s extremely well written in the vivid brightness of clever, understated storytelling in which you feel you are present as an observer. There’s wry humour, some excruciating scenes when you wince in embarrassment and want to hide under the nearest table, there’s excellent dialogue and some incisive verbal sparring such as when Phoebe matches Latimer barb for barb. The ending is dramatic and you feel a real punch to the guts over it. The book ends a bit abruptly but does leave you wanting more .... Overall, another good addition to the series and I look forward to seeing what’s in store for them next. With thanks to NetGalley and especially to Faber and Faber for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review. A buddy read with Peter - thank you for reading it with me.

  4. 4 out of 5

    karen

    NOW AVAILABLE!! ************************************ okay, i finished Snow and i have enough time to cram this one in before the demands of SPOOKTOBER begin, so crisis averted. ************************************ oops, i did it again. i won a gr giveaway without reading the fine print. i have read john banville before, but not any of the SEVEN quirke books he wrote as benjamin black, nor the previous st. john strafford book, and i entered this giveaway not realizing that this book features BOTH of NOW AVAILABLE!! ************************************ okay, i finished Snow and i have enough time to cram this one in before the demands of SPOOKTOBER begin, so crisis averted. ************************************ oops, i did it again. i won a gr giveaway without reading the fine print. i have read john banville before, but not any of the SEVEN quirke books he wrote as benjamin black, nor the previous st. john strafford book, and i entered this giveaway not realizing that this book features BOTH of those characters and i'm probably going to be SO CONFUSED! how has this happened to me TWICE? A 'HOLY SHIT' UPDATE according to my virtual shelves, i have never, in fact, read john banville. i thought i had, and i certainly have a stack of his books in my house, but i guess i never have? so THIS means i can read Snow as my self-imposed obligatory 2021 challenge to read one book each month by an author i have never read despite owning more than one of their books and THEN read this one and that's one crisis averted! phew.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    John Banville's latest instalment in his Quirke series (previous books have been published under his pen name Benjamin Black), draws in a new recurring character, D.I. St. John Strafford, with whom readers will be familiar from Banville's 2020 release Snow. The book is set in the late 1950s - early 1960s. After an opening chapter told from the perspective of an Irish hitman living in England, the tone turns rather languid and reflective with State Pathologist Quirke (also Irish) and his wife, Aus John Banville's latest instalment in his Quirke series (previous books have been published under his pen name Benjamin Black), draws in a new recurring character, D.I. St. John Strafford, with whom readers will be familiar from Banville's 2020 release Snow. The book is set in the late 1950s - early 1960s. After an opening chapter told from the perspective of an Irish hitman living in England, the tone turns rather languid and reflective with State Pathologist Quirke (also Irish) and his wife, Austrian-born psychiatrist Evelyn, on holiday at the northern Spanish beach resort of Donostia-San Sebastián. "There was a café on a square in the Old Town that became their favourite haunt of an evening. They took to sitting outside there, under an old stone arcade, as the nights grew increasingly warm." (loc. 219, Banville's description fits Constitución Plaza) Quirke is jolted from his preoccupations and ruminations when, after an accident involving an oyster and nail scissors, he meets a young Irish doctor, Angela Lawless, at the local hospital. Although his recollection is based on a single passing introduction several years ago, when he was characteristically drunk, he becomes convinced that Dr. Lawless is, in fact, April Latimer, a friend of his daughter Phoebe's, who went missing, believed murdered, four years earlier. Following an excruciatingly awkward dinner during which Quirke tries to draw Angela-April out, the action moves to Dublin, where Quirke's daughter Phoebe is reeling from the news her father has just relayed via telephone. By contacting April's uncle, Irish Defence Minister William Latimer, she unwittingly sets off a series of events which will put April's - and her own - life in danger. Using alternating perspectives, Banville creates a palpable sense of tension and foreshadowing as Phoebe sets off, accompanied by D.I. Strafford representing the Garda Siochána, to join her father and step-mother in Spain. The cleverly-titled April in Spain is high quality literary mystery-suspense, featuring Banville's characteristically elegant prose, simple but exquisite use of descriptive language to evoke setting and deep character exploration. Despite not having yet read the earlier Quirke books - I now intend to - I found myself quickly immersed in his mid-20th-century world. His relationship with Evelyn is portrayed with sensitivity and a lightness of touch, and the picturesque setting is rendered lifelike through his lens. While Strafford plays only a supporting role in this book, his character taciturn but highly-perceptive as in Snow, his involvement is pivotal as the story unfolds towards its shocking conclusion. The ground is set for him to remain a recurring character in future Quirke outings. I'd highly recommend April in Spain to readers who appreciate a literary style of mystery, with evocative prose and well-developed characters. While the plot is a slow-build, committed readers will be well rewarded. My thanks to the author, John Banville (aka Benjamin Black), publisher Faber and Faber Ltd., NetGalley and NetGalleyUK for the opportunity to read and review this stimulating title.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Linden

    Quirke, the Irish pathologist, and his wife Evelyn, a psychiatrist, are on holiday in Spain. As with Banville's novel Snow, this one is very atmospheric, only it's a sunny seaside vibe contrasting with Quirke's saturnine personality. This is dark, like his previous novels, but moves very slowly--the first third of the novel described the holiday in Spain. The pathologist, wonders if Angela, a young doctor in Spain, is really his daughter's friend April, who was reported murdered by her now decea Quirke, the Irish pathologist, and his wife Evelyn, a psychiatrist, are on holiday in Spain. As with Banville's novel Snow, this one is very atmospheric, only it's a sunny seaside vibe contrasting with Quirke's saturnine personality. This is dark, like his previous novels, but moves very slowly--the first third of the novel described the holiday in Spain. The pathologist, wonders if Angela, a young doctor in Spain, is really his daughter's friend April, who was reported murdered by her now deceased brother four years ago; he calls Phoebe to come to Spain to see what she thinks, The characters do things that seem baffling, like Quirke inviting an ER doctor, who is obviously not interested, out for dinner, and Phoebe going to a powerful politician with information that will prove lethal. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Shindler

    John Banville writes with an understated elegance.He assembles layered, elliptical sentences that present fragments of information and images.His style entices the reader to engage in his created world, experiencing a blend of characterization, setting and intrigue. “ April in Spain “ was my first encounter with this author and I was totally captivated. Our protagonist,Dr Quirke, is on holiday in the Basque town of St.Sebastian.Quirke, whose name hints at his persnickety, contrarian nature, has n John Banville writes with an understated elegance.He assembles layered, elliptical sentences that present fragments of information and images.His style entices the reader to engage in his created world, experiencing a blend of characterization, setting and intrigue. “ April in Spain “ was my first encounter with this author and I was totally captivated. Our protagonist,Dr Quirke, is on holiday in the Basque town of St.Sebastian.Quirke, whose name hints at his persnickety, contrarian nature, has not adapted well to an environment outside of Dublin in the late fifties.Nevertheless, he has been recently married to Evelyn, an Austrian psychiatrist, and must make an effort to endure his holiday with aplomb.His composure is shaken when his his hand, an oyster shell and a scissors come together, requiring a visit to the local hospital.While Quirke’s hand is being repaired, he encounters Angela Lawless, a doctor at the hospital.She resembles April Latimer, a friend of Quirke’s daughter Phoebe. April, a member of a powerful Irish political family, went missing four years earlier. Although her body has never been found, she is presumed to be dead. Quirke cannot dismiss Angela’s uncanny resemblance to April and contacts his daughter Phoebe in Dublin. After a brief period of inquiry in Dublin,Phoebe is bound for Spain. However, her inquiries have aroused the interest of powerful political figures in Dublin, motivating them to retain the services of Terry Trice.When we first meet Terry, we are informed that,”Terry liked killing people.It was as simple as that….he was no psycho.” The convergence of these characters draws us into a novel that is both suspenseful and filled with political intrigue.As the exposition unfolds, a backstory of buried secrets, guilt and repression slowly unfolds.One begins to wonder if the crimes committed by the Church and ruling political elite are less heinous than those committed by the psychopathic Terry Trice. This novel is a well crafted fusion of character development, setting and escalating suspense. At the novel’s conclusion,I was deep in thought about the consequences when political and religious power intersect with the brooding passions of the human heart.4.5 stars.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Left Coast Justin

    My previous meeting with Mr. Banville was the unspeakably dull The Sea. I thought a crime thriller might force him to pick up the pace a bit, and indeed this story was much more interesting. Riveting, even. Which is not to say that this one was action-packed; quite the opposite. I've never read a book quite like this one, in which normal life proceeds on its course, while life-changing (or life-ending) events really only take an instant. We're all familiar with this, though perhaps in less dramat My previous meeting with Mr. Banville was the unspeakably dull The Sea. I thought a crime thriller might force him to pick up the pace a bit, and indeed this story was much more interesting. Riveting, even. Which is not to say that this one was action-packed; quite the opposite. I've never read a book quite like this one, in which normal life proceeds on its course, while life-changing (or life-ending) events really only take an instant. We're all familiar with this, though perhaps in less dramatic fashion: The instant you say something and immediately regret it; the moment before you slam on the brakes, too late; that instant in which your beloved pet passes from life to death. Banville's action sequences scarcely take longer to read than the events they are describing. It's an interesting approach. What he does really well is instill a mounting dread. We can foresee how several characters are going to end up in the same place at the same time, but don't know exactly how things will turn out. Badly, we suspect. This makes for pretty thrilling reading. The other perfect treat in this book is the description of a happy marriage, something too rarely seen in books of this type. How can you not love a guy who likes smacking his pudgy wife's butt because he enjoys watching it wobble?

  9. 5 out of 5

    Paul Weiss

    “Ahí está ella”. Things were “rushing together into a vast, silent collision, like an event in stellar space”. Dublin pathologist Quirke is on vacation in Basque Spain with his brilliantly observant, oft-times acerbic, yet mild-mannered and soft-spoken wife, Evelyn. His drinking is an ever present concern and all who know him understand that alcoholism has always been one of his life issues. Of an evening in a quiet, dimly lit bar, Quirke is shocked to spot a familiar face. A close friend of his “Ahí está ella”. Things were “rushing together into a vast, silent collision, like an event in stellar space”. Dublin pathologist Quirke is on vacation in Basque Spain with his brilliantly observant, oft-times acerbic, yet mild-mannered and soft-spoken wife, Evelyn. His drinking is an ever present concern and all who know him understand that alcoholism has always been one of his life issues. Of an evening in a quiet, dimly lit bar, Quirke is shocked to spot a familiar face. A close friend of his daughter, Phoebe, was supposed to have been murdered by her brother several years earlier and her body had never been found. Quirke is a stubborn man and his inquiring mind refuses to let the sighting drop. He reports to the Dublin police and asks his daughter to come to Spain to confirm that the women he saw was her long lost friend. But there are nefarious forces who intend to ensure that what was long dead and hidden remains dead and hidden. A sociopathic hit man has been sent to finish the job and it is possible that Quirke and his wife may get in the way of what needs be done. Despite a positively glacial pace, the mood and the atmosphere in APRIL IN SPAIN are gripping, intense and utterly compelling. The events, such as they are, take place almost entirely in the minds of the various story narrators. So little actually happens that it would be impossible to characterize APRIL IN SPAIN as a psychological thriller so perhaps it might be more correct to call it a very cerebral, literary mystery and stop there. The writing is positively melt-in-your-mouth delicious and the characters are developed in loving, meticulous detail. No spoilers but an all too realistic conclusion will set your brain to boiling and, if you have any compassion and sense of justice, will make you intensely angry. But, it is what it is, and it works. Definitely recommended for lovers of thrillers and noir mysteries. Paul Weiss

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    The Irish pathologist Quirke is on Holiday with his wife in Spain when he recognizes a friend of his daughter, Phoebe. But April is supposed to be dead, and the young woman is using a nom de guerre. Quirke is intrigued and asks Phoebe to join him in Spain to confirm the woman’s identity. Fortunately, the police department asks detective St. John Strafford to travel with Phoebe. It turns out that there is an assassin looking for April too.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Vickie

    This was slow in the beginning, but once it got going, it was a well written, enjoyable read. Character development is strong, although may of them are flawed… atmospheric with Insight into some Irish history and culture Set primarily in San Sebastián during the era of Franco, a good sense of time and place is created. More literary fiction than thriller, this is the eighth in a series, but the first one I have read. It works well as a stand alone.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Whether you categorize this book as the second Strafford or the eighth Quirke, it is a Banville masterpiece exceeding all expectations for a crime book written by a human. Celestial? Possibly, as it definitely delivers the most perfect book I have read in recent memory. I want to read the book again as soon as possible to again appreciate the intricate plotting and brilliant characterizations that come together piece by piece as the reader anticipates resulting action with dread. It would not be Whether you categorize this book as the second Strafford or the eighth Quirke, it is a Banville masterpiece exceeding all expectations for a crime book written by a human. Celestial? Possibly, as it definitely delivers the most perfect book I have read in recent memory. I want to read the book again as soon as possible to again appreciate the intricate plotting and brilliant characterizations that come together piece by piece as the reader anticipates resulting action with dread. It would not be fair for me to describe the book and rob another of the satisfaction of discovery. Should you read the other Quirke books first? Well...yes. My favorite author!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    This is a full four and in parts at least a 4.5 star read. It is notable in one other regard. And that is it is probably the most enjoyable read in the last 6 months (many dozens) that I have read. Some of those were 5 stars but this is the one I returned to with relish. Quirke and his wife had some of the most sublime and enjoyable conversations I have read. Absolutely adored the relationship too. Both have looked into and gone through the depths and somehow plummeted out into a full boat "now" This is a full four and in parts at least a 4.5 star read. It is notable in one other regard. And that is it is probably the most enjoyable read in the last 6 months (many dozens) that I have read. Some of those were 5 stars but this is the one I returned to with relish. Quirke and his wife had some of the most sublime and enjoyable conversations I have read. Absolutely adored the relationship too. Both have looked into and gone through the depths and somehow plummeted out into a full boat "now". One that contains full joy on top of it. Not all that usual or common by any take I've seen. And almost never by / with those who have walked the corridors of hell. The language was excellent. I love the quirkiness of wordplay within clear, short, direct meaning speech. Hard to get now in any genre. Not with the people of manners nor by the people without them. Like "uncutting" your traces language. He is superior at it. I will be reading more John Banville. I take it that this in the midst of a Strafford series? Regardless, the stand alone was clear and excellent. The ending was apt to life. I know. And not only from living in Chicago either. The 5 star placement locale was done to a 6 stars level. The Basque port of Spain gets short shrift to Barcelona and the Med. coast area. Always. But not here. Loved that too. Oh, it makes me so happy to have such an author to look forward to. He is "of" and knows my own era and the language of prime core words before they were all redefined to anger and resentment cognitions. But the manner in which he uses those words is EXCELLENT.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sofia

    My second meeting with St John Strafford though this time not as a main protagonist, still a welcome meeting. This time round I met Quirke, I know this is his eight book but it's also the first time I met him. This time round we have the sun instead of the snow I first met Strafford in. But like with snow, evil happens under the sun as well. As usual Banville draws one in, exploring the people and the society they create or are created by. Because I can't really say who comes first the person or s My second meeting with St John Strafford though this time not as a main protagonist, still a welcome meeting. This time round I met Quirke, I know this is his eight book but it's also the first time I met him. This time round we have the sun instead of the snow I first met Strafford in. But like with snow, evil happens under the sun as well. As usual Banville draws one in, exploring the people and the society they create or are created by. Because I can't really say who comes first the person or society. Say we have a little tike who grows up in a bad situation and in turn becomes bad himself and does bad things which cause dents in the society and shapes it because of that badness. So who influenced who. Can we pull out? But then can we live outside society, what about connection? Isn't that what it is all about? Will I be going back and exploring Quirke from the beginning, I think so yes, I like the quietness and at the same time the deepness of these books. An ARC gently given by author/publisher via Netgalley.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Chiara Liberio

    A relaxed holiday in a luxurious seafront hotel in San Sebastian, a woman with a striking resemblance to a girl declared dead long ago and a hitman on the loose are the ingredients in the eighth instalment of Irish pathologist (and notorious alcoholic) Quirke’s series, which now brings Strafford, the detective in Banville’s latest novel Snow, onboard. Set in the Fifties, this is a noir novel that unfolds slowly like one of those lazy April days in the sunshine, when nothing remarkable seems to h A relaxed holiday in a luxurious seafront hotel in San Sebastian, a woman with a striking resemblance to a girl declared dead long ago and a hitman on the loose are the ingredients in the eighth instalment of Irish pathologist (and notorious alcoholic) Quirke’s series, which now brings Strafford, the detective in Banville’s latest novel Snow, onboard. Set in the Fifties, this is a noir novel that unfolds slowly like one of those lazy April days in the sunshine, when nothing remarkable seems to happen as you spend your days while idly conversing, having great food and lounging around sipping cocktails. It starts as a cozy family drama and soon you see how neatly events are laid out for you and think you know what is coming, yet you relish the sense of premonition and the tension of events unfolding. But just when you believe that you have known everything all along, Banville delivers a masterful blow and manages to baffle and surprise you at the end. As always, Banville’s writing is elegant, acutely observed and assured. Many of his characters are privileged and deeply flawed, Quirke in the first place (what kind of man would pretend his daughter is not his?). Although I found a few minor characters not so convincing ( Phoebe’s fiancé, or Doctor Cruz), characterisation and the ability to recreate a character’s psychology, explore relationships and evoke an entire world are excellent: in this case we are talking about the morally bankrupt entourage of the Irish establishment intersecting with the seedy underbelly of the country. The crimes at the heart of these novels often have sexual abuse and unspeakable crimes at the core: setting the novels in the Fifties allows Banville to comment and on the climate of arbitrariness, connivance, and impunity that characterises some dark pages of Irish history (In Snow, for example, it was the role of the Church). Not a high adrenaline page turner but a pleasant read. My thanks to Faber and Netgalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    April in Spain is the eighth instalment in this elegant and compelling historical crime series to feature inimitable Irish pathologist and heavy drinker Dr Quirke who is this time joined in his sleuthing by newcomer from Snow, DI St. John Strafford. On the idyllic coast of the Spanish city of San Sebastian, pathologist Quirke finds it difficult to find peace, despite the beaches, the cafes and the company of his disarmingly loving wife. Quirke and his Austrian psychiatrist wife, Evelyn, are holi April in Spain is the eighth instalment in this elegant and compelling historical crime series to feature inimitable Irish pathologist and heavy drinker Dr Quirke who is this time joined in his sleuthing by newcomer from Snow, DI St. John Strafford. On the idyllic coast of the Spanish city of San Sebastian, pathologist Quirke finds it difficult to find peace, despite the beaches, the cafes and the company of his disarmingly loving wife. Quirke and his Austrian psychiatrist wife, Evelyn, are holidaying together in Donostia in the Basque region of Spain, but Quirke soon gets himself into a little trouble when he tries to open a can of oysters with nail scissors after forgetting to purchase a suitable tool. Unfortunately, the injury is quite nasty, and Evelyn insists that he attends the local hospital due to the severity of the wound. But when he arrives there a sense of deja vu overcomes him and he realises that the Irish doctor about to examine then tend to his silly gash is the same woman he noticed recently while in a local bar one evening. Still trying to ascertain exactly where he recognises the doctor calling herself Angela Lawless from, Quirke thinks his imagination has run wild on him. This young woman cannot be April Latimer, a friend of Quirke’s own daughter, Phoebe. After all, she was murdered by her brother years ago right before he confessed and apparently took his own life – that was the conclusion of a controversial case that shook Irish political relations to their foundations, anyway. Unable to put the matter out of his mind and prompted further by the woman’s appearance and matching initials, Quirke calls Ireland, and soon Detective St. John Strafford is dispatched to Spain. But Strafford is not alone in hitting the road. A ruthless and psychotic assassin, Terry Tice, hunts for his latest prey, and his victim may well be Quirke himself. This is an enthralling and exceptionally woven literary thriller that moves at a slow-burning pace and is laden with an intriguing mystery, dark secrets, betrayal, toxicity, deception and some deeply dangerous people and incidents that take place throughout. I was absorbed from the outset and the setting of the laid back Basque region where Quirke and Evelyn sample many of the cultural delicacies beneath the glowing rays and the central thread unfolds among the visceral descriptions of Basque cuisine, language, weather and architecture. Banville’s prose puts many writers to shame as it is masterfully crafted, and within the richly detailed plot there is not a single element left to chance. This is a crime novel that you enjoy savouring, and you do so with every last word as you truly appreciate the layered and perceptive descriptions of both people and place. As ever, Quirke and his wife share their unique bond together; they are both idiosyncratic and frequently eccentric characters who just happen to share a long-term, contented love story and lifelong companionship. It's lovely to actually observe a solid couple such as this as many romantic relationships taking place in fiction are often fly by night. It's an engrossing and entertaining read from beginning to denouement complete with deft plotting before arriving at a palpably tense climax. It also wouldn't be Banville without a detailed examination of relationships – personal, social and political. A spellbinding mystery swaddled in the rich atmosphere of Spain in springtime. Highly recommended.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah-Hope

    When he began his Quirke series, John Banville wrote under the pen name Benjamin Black. He'd already published several very well-received novels and perhaps didn't want to "lower" those by adding a piece of genre fiction to his oeuvre. But the bottom line is that Banville is an absolutely masterful prose stylist and creator of characters and settings. The Quirke titles are detective fiction, but they're also literary fiction in the best sense of the term. I'm glad to see that this latest volume When he began his Quirke series, John Banville wrote under the pen name Benjamin Black. He'd already published several very well-received novels and perhaps didn't want to "lower" those by adding a piece of genre fiction to his oeuvre. But the bottom line is that Banville is an absolutely masterful prose stylist and creator of characters and settings. The Quirke titles are detective fiction, but they're also literary fiction in the best sense of the term. I'm glad to see that this latest volume has come out under his real name. The Quirke series is dark, brooding, and complicated. Quirke is a 1950s/60s era Dublin pathologist, a man with a drinking problem, with all sorts of secrets, and with a deep awareness of his lower-class beginnings. He was adopted into a wealthy family, but that doesn't change the way his childhood shaped him. April in Spain the 8th Quirke novel, and I would urge readers unfamiliary with the series to begin at the beginning. Relationships among characters are complex—and Banville's characters are always trying to keep essential parts of their identity unknown to others—unknown even to themselves. So—this 8th novel. Quirke is somewhat unwillingly on vacation in Spain at the urging of his wife Evelyn. Quirke isn't necessarily happy, but he's not unhappy, which for him is pretty much the equivalent of ecstasy in anyone else. Not unhappy is as upbeat as his range of emotions gets. An injury takes him to a hospital where he's initially treated by a doctor who seems strangely familiar. After several days of puzzling, he realizes that this woman is almost certainly April Latimer, one of his daughter's friends who was killed by her brother four years ago. The story spins out from that center, pulling in a number of other recurring characters, including the usual menacing cohort of Quirke's Dublin. If you've been reading these titles since the beginning, you don't need me to urge you to pick up this latest. If you're not familiar with this series, start with the first volume, Christine Falls, and be sure to read Elegy for April before picking up April in Spain. I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via Edelweiss; the opinions are my own.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    A dragging, implausible plot with incongruous characters, this book could have been a 12-page short story. Very disappointing work from what I’ve been told is a celebrated author.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Penelope

    My first Quirke book and the latest in the series at number 8. Now I feel must begin with the first in the Quirke novels and read through all of these excellent mysteries. 4 stars

  20. 5 out of 5

    Caroline O'Sullivan

    This is number 8 in a series featuring Quirke, the state pathologist, so some of what happens in ‘April in Spain’ has its history in these books and whilst a load of background information isn’t given there is sufficient to read this as a stand-alone book. I’m very much intrigued to read the previous 7 books though. I’ve encountered Detective Stratford in Snow earlier this year and though he only appears here briefly it was lovely to catch up with him again. I enjoy Banville’s writing, everything This is number 8 in a series featuring Quirke, the state pathologist, so some of what happens in ‘April in Spain’ has its history in these books and whilst a load of background information isn’t given there is sufficient to read this as a stand-alone book. I’m very much intrigued to read the previous 7 books though. I’ve encountered Detective Stratford in Snow earlier this year and though he only appears here briefly it was lovely to catch up with him again. I enjoy Banville’s writing, everything is described perfectly, the atmosphere of a slower paced era brings us gently along and I’m more than happy to recommend this book..

  21. 5 out of 5

    Elaine Tomasso

    I would like to thank Netgalley and Faber and Faber Ltd for an advance copy of April in Spain, the eighth novel to feature Dublin pathologist Quirke and the second to feature DI Strafford. Quirke and his wife, Evelyn, are on an early holiday in San Sebastián when he thinks he sees a familiar face, but from where and when? When he finally realises whom he recognises he phones home and DI Strafford is sent to investigate. Unfortunately a hit man is also sent to silence this person and it results in I would like to thank Netgalley and Faber and Faber Ltd for an advance copy of April in Spain, the eighth novel to feature Dublin pathologist Quirke and the second to feature DI Strafford. Quirke and his wife, Evelyn, are on an early holiday in San Sebastián when he thinks he sees a familiar face, but from where and when? When he finally realises whom he recognises he phones home and DI Strafford is sent to investigate. Unfortunately a hit man is also sent to silence this person and it results in a violent showdown. I thoroughly enjoyed April in Spain, which weaves a compelling tale, of what I’m not quite sure, that had me interested from start to finish. I should note before continuing that I wasn’t overly impressed by Snow, the novel that preceded this one, but this is a different ball game. The first half of the novel is all Quirke as he searches his memory banks for whom he has seen and acclimatises to holiday mode, hard for a grumpy old man. I was intrigued by the mystery of this person and was desperate to find out who it was and why they were in Spain, not an easy place to live in the sixties when I think the novel is set. With an identity established the second half of the novel is told from various points of view, all adding colour and perspective to the narrative. My interest level didn’t wane and was probably heightened by the mystery of why this person had attracted a hit man. This is not revealed until the final showdown and that is a masterclass in politics and shifting priorities - I loved it and its understated menace and it’s worth the price of the novel on its own. I have most of the Quirke novels buried in my TBR somewhere, but haven’t got round to them yet. As such I amn’t overly familiar with the characters. I like Strafford and Evelyn but Quirke and his daughter Phoebe are too complicated to be really likeable. He’s an old soak who thrives on strife and awkwardness, she keeps people at a distance, including the reader, so she’s hard to understand. The novel spends a fair amount of time with the hit man, Terry Tyce, an amoral sociopath with no self awareness. He’s well drawn and the most interesting character in the novel, mainly because there is more to infer about him. Lastly, a shout out to the title which is cleverer than initial appearances. April in Spain is a good read that I have no hesitation in recommending.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kimbofo

    If I had to choose one word to describe John Banville‘s latest crime novel it would be this: fun. April in Spain is historical crime at its best, the kind of story you can get lost in and enjoy to the full even if the crime itself is a bit of a let down. This evocative postwar tale stars Dublin pathologist Quirke, whom we have met in earlier novels published under Banville’s pseudonym, Benjamin Black, and Detective John Strafford who made his first appearance in last year’s Snow. (Note, you don’t If I had to choose one word to describe John Banville‘s latest crime novel it would be this: fun. April in Spain is historical crime at its best, the kind of story you can get lost in and enjoy to the full even if the crime itself is a bit of a let down. This evocative postwar tale stars Dublin pathologist Quirke, whom we have met in earlier novels published under Banville’s pseudonym, Benjamin Black, and Detective John Strafford who made his first appearance in last year’s Snow. (Note, you don’t need to be familiar with those novels, but it’s great fun for readers who are.) It’s set in San Sebastián, on the northern coast of Spain’s mountainous Basque Country, and is famous for its forests, beaches, sparkling wine and seafood. Quirke is holidaying here somewhat reluctantly (he finds it difficult to relax) thanks to his wife, Evelyn, a straight-talking Austrian psychotherapist who survived the Holocaust, having arranged it all. ‘Northern Spain is southern Ireland,’ she said. ‘It rains all the time, everywhere is green, and everyone is Catholic. You will love it.’ One evening, enjoying a quiet drink in a bar in the Old Town, Quirke hears an Irish accent and wonders if he might know the woman to whom it belongs, but she’s sitting behind him and he can’t see her properly. When he does finally run into her under different circumstances a few days later he realises he does know her — or at least he thinks he does. The problem is she’s supposed to be dead, having been murdered by her brother following a sex scandal involving one of Ireland’s most distinguished political families many years earlier. Quirke being Quirke can’t ignore the possibility that April Latimer, now going by the name Angela Lawless (note the same initials), is still alive, but how to prove it? That’s where Detective Strafford comes into the picture. He arrives in Spain, accompanied by Quirke’s adult daughter who was friends with April and will be able to help identify her. To read the rest of my review, please visit my blog.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bayneeta

    Quirke's wife Evelyn has lured him to Spain for a holiday promising him "Northern Spain is southern Ireland. . . It rains all the time, everywhere is green and everyone is Catholic. You will love it." One has to wonder why his psychiatrist wife puts up with the alcoholic Quirke. "For him, petulance was a pastime." Yet I found myself pleased that this marriage seems to be working, even as I despaired at choices Quirke makes, and was even more aghast at some of his daughter Phoebe's decisions. The t Quirke's wife Evelyn has lured him to Spain for a holiday promising him "Northern Spain is southern Ireland. . . It rains all the time, everywhere is green and everyone is Catholic. You will love it." One has to wonder why his psychiatrist wife puts up with the alcoholic Quirke. "For him, petulance was a pastime." Yet I found myself pleased that this marriage seems to be working, even as I despaired at choices Quirke makes, and was even more aghast at some of his daughter Phoebe's decisions. The tension builds slowly, but it's clear something bad is going to happen because of those choices and decisions.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Bacon

    John Banville is an award winning author of literary fiction, one with an impeccable writing career spanning more than half a century. Since 2006, under the pen-name Benjamin Black, he has published a series of crime novels featuring the forensic pathologist Quirke, set in 1950s Dublin. Quirke is a fascinatingly flawed character, with a weakness for the ladies and a fondness for the bottle. So far there have been seven titles in the series. In 2020 John Banville published Snow, featuring Detectiv John Banville is an award winning author of literary fiction, one with an impeccable writing career spanning more than half a century. Since 2006, under the pen-name Benjamin Black, he has published a series of crime novels featuring the forensic pathologist Quirke, set in 1950s Dublin. Quirke is a fascinatingly flawed character, with a weakness for the ladies and a fondness for the bottle. So far there have been seven titles in the series. In 2020 John Banville published Snow, featuring Detective Inspector Strafford, also in the same time setting and location of the Quirke novels. I really enjoyed that novel, and April in Spain, the latest offering from Banville, has been advertised variously as both a Quirke novel and a Strafford one. Quirke and Strafford couldn’t be more different. Where Quirke is flawed and self-destructive, Strafford is scholarly and determined. The first half of April in Spain details a holiday in San Sebastian in which Quirke and his wife, Evelyn, come across a young Irish woman who looks remarkably like a friend of his daughter’s who disappeared four years previously, presumed dead. This touches on a previous novel in the Quirke series called Elegy for April (which I hadn’t read) and this current book acts almost as a sequel. But be warned – there are many spoilers for that novel, so your enjoyment will be much stronger if you’re familiar with the events of Elegy for April April in Spain isn’t so much a whodunnit as a why-and-howdunnit. As ever with Banville/Black’s novels, the quality of writing is superb. It is extremely readable, and even if the plot risks disappointing readers seeking out a traditional murder mystery, for those wanting an intelligent literary crime novel it definitely delivers. Strafford makes an all-too brief appearance, but it’s a crucial and dramatic one. There’s a memorable psychopath called Terry whose presence calls to mind Pinkie from Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, but where the novel really excels is in its first half where we spend time with Quirke and Evelyn, and see at first hand their realistically complex marriage. The novel’s historical aspects feel authentic and there’s a nice contrast between sunny Spain and the events taking place in rainy, windswept Dublin. It’s almost as if, in writing Snow, John Banville was wanting to cast off his pseudonym Benjamin Black and write a literary crime novel under his own name. And he managed that with a great deal of success. I loved Snow, and felt the pacing was perfect, masterfully balancing the mystery aspects of the traditional detective story with that of a literary novel. April in Spain seems less finely blended, with the first half appearing more literary and the second half more fast-paced and plot-driven. And yet it still works. I had a great time reading it, even if it doesn’t quite come across as accomplished as the first Strafford novel. However I still have no problem recommending it, and I look forward greatly to reading more books in the series.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Hollen

    3.25 stars

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nell

    Although a complete episode, this left me feeling hanging. At the end, it seems as if everyone’s life has been or is about to be thrown into utter disarray. This series is too bleak to describe it as “enjoyable,” with the baser human behaviors on full display. Even the best impulses may go awry. Perhaps “compelling” is the better descriptor.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Jernigan

    I often find—and I know I’m not alone in this—that “literary” authors who give genre fiction a go misunderstand what makes genre fiction appealing in the first place. John Banville’s Quirke books have been, in my opinion, exceptions to this rule. Banville seems to get what why people love detective stories. But this installment... The mystery here is entirely half-assed, as is the rest of the plot. I would suggest reading it simply for the pleasure of spending time with Quirke and Phoebe, but th I often find—and I know I’m not alone in this—that “literary” authors who give genre fiction a go misunderstand what makes genre fiction appealing in the first place. John Banville’s Quirke books have been, in my opinion, exceptions to this rule. Banville seems to get what why people love detective stories. But this installment... The mystery here is entirely half-assed, as is the rest of the plot. I would suggest reading it simply for the pleasure of spending time with Quirke and Phoebe, but there’s a romance subplot here that only makes sense if it’s ironic commentary on romance subplots, and there is tragedy here that also feels, at best, like some sort of metacommentary on the use of tragedy in fiction. Three stars simply because Banville at his mediocre-est is still a fine stylist who creates wonderful characters.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    A very slow burner throughout the book. Dr Quirke is on holiday in northern Spain with his wife when he comes across April a friend of his daughter, but this friend died and her body was never found though her brother admitted to killing her before he was in a car accident that killed him. I found it unbelievable in places and could not gel with any of the characters. Thanks to Netgalley with the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Mijangos

    I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. There were interesting portions, but the novel in whole was a struggle.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    2.5 stars I'm afraid this just took too long to go anywhere for my liking. The plot itself was interesting,but it was more than half the book scene setting before I felt we got to it. 2.5 stars I'm afraid this just took too long to go anywhere for my liking. The plot itself was interesting,but it was more than half the book scene setting before I felt we got to it.

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