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John Banville: Athena

For the second book in a row we have a character who is clearly Freddie Montgomery from the previous two books but who is not identified as such. Once again he is involved in the murkier side of the art world. This time, under the name of Morrow, he is hired by a man named Morden to advise on some paintings which this man somehow seems to have acquired. Are they real? Are they fake? Are they stolen? While he is dealing with Morden and his gang – it is never quite sure who is part of the gang and what their role is – he also takes up with A. Her name is never revealed though she is clearly involved in some way with the art scam. Even Morrow is aware that there is something odd about an attractive young woman taking up with an old man like him. She is into rough and even describes a threesome she has with a prostitute and a large and tough sailor.

As in his previous books it is never really clear what is going on. For example, there are continual reports of brutal serial killings against women. Is one of the characters involved? We do not know. We do know that Morrow seems to have a sort of a tender side, as he visits his Aunt Corky (who is not his aunt but his mother’s cousin) in a home and then, when she becomes really ill, takes her to his home. Even then there might be an ulterior motive. He does inherit her estate when she dies and finds himself richer than he had anticipated. Once again the police are involved but are always one step behind the criminals, Morrow/Montgomery is full of himself and we are left wondering what the hell happened.

Publishing history

First published in 1995 by Secker & Warburg