The Book of Evidence (John Banville)

When I first picked up this book, the title sounded a lot like that of a mystery novel. This book is nothing of the sort, it's more of a look at the mind of a murderer after he has committed a totally pointless crime.

The Book of Evidence is the confession of Freddie Montgomery, a 38 year old ex-scientist, who murders a servant girl when she finds him in the middle of a ridiculous attempt at stealing a painting from an acquaintance.

The story is narrated by Freddie as he sits in jail awaiting trial for the murder. In the first half of the book, he talks about his past, the events leading up to the crime and the murder itself. The latter half of the book is a recounting of Freddie's actions until his capture.

John Banville's work has been compared to that of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and I could see some similarities (and contrast) between this book and Crime and Punishment. The protagonists in both the books do not have a clear motive for their crime. However, Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment is filled with remorse about the crime, whereas in The Book of Evidence, Freddie is completely remorseless. When speaking about why he murdered the girl, he casually says that he did it just because he could, and not because there was any real reason to do so.

This isn't the kind of novel you choose if you wanted a nice fast-paced crime novel to read, but it's definitely worth a read if you want to read about a crime from the perspective of the criminal rather than the detective.

Rating : 8/10

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Framed said...

I've only read one book by Banville and disliked it. This book sounds completely different, but still . . .

Nithin said...

This is my first (and only) Banville book, so I'm not sure what to say. It's worth reading but just don't expect a typical crime novel.

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