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 in sun-drenched and atmospheric Spain with his wife, Evelyn. He thinks he recognises a young 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.