$27.99ISBN: 9781335230003Availability: Special OrderPublished: Hanover Square Press - October 6th, 2020
Inspector St. John (pronounced Sinjun) Strafford wanders the winter landscape surrounding Ballyglass House after a body is discovered in the library. Shades of Agatha Christie—except that Strafford is no Poirot, and 1957 Ireland is far from Dame Agatha’s pastoral England. A lonely man who observes life from the sidelines, audience rather than player (as he himself observes), Strafford is from the same upper reaches of Protestant society as are the far grander inhabitants of Ballyglass. He wonders why the victim, a Catholic priest, has long been a familiar of the house and even more to the point, what he has done to deserve the bizarre post-death injuries he has suffered. So our detective roams the great house, the surrounding countryside, observing, making mental notes, engaging in awkward conversation, blundering into even more awkward situations, always accruing facts—or perhaps story would be a better word since he gradually builds a narrative of the lives involved in the mystery he’s trying to solve. Working more by instinct than process, he pieces together fragments from conversations, from revelatory behavior to create a plausible outline of past and present. As that outline comes into ever sharper focus, it also darkens in a dramatic way as Banville’s brilliant language burrows its way into the narrative and the reader’s psyche, somehow preparing us for what turns out to be the secret heart of the tale—and ample reason for murder.