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The Silver Swan    by Benjamin Black order for
Silver Swan
by Benjamin Black
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2009 (2008)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

In The Silver Swan, Benjamin Black's deliberately paced character study and nuanced mystery, readers are reintroduced to Quirke, the irascible, formerly hard-drinking Dublin pathologist, a 1950s man with a complicated and haunting past whose inquisitive and skeptical personality is dominated by an 'itch to cut into the quick of things, to delve into the dark of what was hidden.'

At the outset of the story, Deirdre Hunt (a.k.a. Laura Swan of The Silver Swan beauty salon) has died, apparently because of suicide, and her distraught husband Billy Hunt, Quirke's college classmate, asks Quirke to spare the dead woman the indignity of an autopsy. Quirke, to the limited extent that he can do so officially, promises the grieving husband that he will try to comply with Hunt's request.

Nevertheless, because of Quirke's aforementioned itch and his urge to delve, the pathologist pursues a personal inquiry rather separate from the official postmortem and coroner's inquest, and gradually discovers that the dead woman had been tragically entangled in a complicated web of jealousies, betrayals, duplicity, and blackmail. Before Quirke finally gets to the absolute truth of the matter, though, Dublin's body-count escalates and Quirke's cynical belief that 'the world is what it seems' is brutally confirmed.

Intriguing, seductive, and provocative, The Silver Swan confirms the pseudonymous author's reputation as a writer who is esteemed for 'rapturous prose, as if Raymond Chandler had been filtered through Nabokov.' Readers looking for a dark, seething tale of secret passions and weaknesses featuring a brooding sleuth will thoroughly enjoy The Silver Swan.

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