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The Book Of Evidence [Paperback]

John Banville
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 5 2010 0330371878 978-0330371872 4th edition, revised

Freddie Montgomery is a highly cultured man, a husband and father living the life of a dissolute exile on a Mediterranean island. When a debt becomes due and his wife and child are held as collateral, he returns to Ireland to secure funds. That pursuit leads him to commit murder. And here is his attempt to present evidence, not of his innocence, but of his life, of the events that lead to the murder he committed because he could. Like a hero out of Nabokov or Camus, Montgomery is a chillingly articulate, self-aware and amoral being, whose humanity is painfully on display.

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From Publishers Weekly

A former scientist who pointlessly murdered a woman during a robbery attempt describes his amoral, aimless life as he awaits trial. "Banville's style, which is spare yet richly eloquent, and his extraordinary psychological penetration, are what lift his novel to a level of comparison with Camus's The Stranger and Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishment ," said PW.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

Freddie Montgomery is a schizophrenic 38-year-old ex-scientist haunting dingy pubs who, nonetheless, ponders life and his illness via this superb novelized murder trial "confession." After study in America, Freddie returns to Ireland to find that his disowning mother has sold what he believes is part of his inheritance from his late father, some paintings that include an old Dutch master of a woman he thinks regards him with caring, benevolent authority. As he steals it, he murders a maid who catches him in the act. His lawyer advises him to plead manslaughter to quash evidence. Instead, the brooding, contradictory Freddie writes the "book of evidence" that we read. How much of it is true, how much sick fancy? Freddie makes us think, too.
- Kenneth Mintz, formerly with Bayonne P.L., N.J.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerizing but too depressing Dec 20 2007
A dark disturbing book through and through. It explores, with uncompromising rigour, the horrific landscape of psychopath's mind that is repugnant and mesmerizing at the same time.

Freddie, the main character, kills a young woman for no reason other than her turning up in a wrong place in a wrong time. More than the act of murder itself, the state of his mind chilled me completely. His total inability to relate to other people is beyond pathetic and aggravated by childish contempt for and desire to exercise control over them.

I wonder if there were at least one lovable personality to save this story from utter bleakness. However, Banville is a perfectionist to the point of being ruthless. Freddie's mother, wife, former girl friend, old family friend, lawyer - anyone and every one is pitilessly portrayed as odd, dull, unhappy and unresponsive. Perhaps this reflects Freddie's inner world but I have found it too depressing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Dark, Powerful, Obsessive Interior Monologue April 13 2002
"My Lord, when you ask me to tell the court in my own words, this is what I shall say." Thus begins "The Book of Evidence," the sardonic, self-pitying, occasionally witty, and ultimately unreliable narrative of Frederick Charles St. John Vanderveld Montgomery (a/k/a Freddie Montgomery). I say "unreliable" quite consciously, because Freddie Montgomery says as much throughout the novel, another in a long line of remarkable fictions from John Banville, perhaps Ireland's finest living author. As Freddie relates at the end of his tale, "I thought of trying to publish this, my testimony. But no. I have asked Inspector Haslet to put it into my file, with the other, official fictions . . . [H]ow much of it is true? All of it. None of it. Only the shame."
And what is Freddie Montgomery's story? An educated and brilliant academic, he married a young woman, Daphne, whom he met while teaching at Berkeley. He left academia for a dissolute life on a Mediterranean island. He became indebted there to apparently dark and unseemly characters, left his wife and young child behind, and returned to his family home in Ireland to obtain enough money to repay his debts. While in Ireland, he committed a brutal and seemingly inexplicable murder, fled the scene of his crime in a kind of "Lost Weekend" of drunken binging and obsession with his dark deed, and, ultimately, is apprehended and imprisoned. He writes the dark, powerful, obsessive interior monologue of "The Book of Evidence" while sitting in prison awaiting his trial.
The reader is never quite certain what to make of Freddie Montgomery. He is, indeed, a disturbed and disturbing narrator, someone who kills an innocent woman for no apparent reason, with chilling sang-froid.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Digging a Deeper Hole... March 24 2002
By Space
Freddie is the best example of a person who does not understand the consequences of his actions. He just keeps on drilling a deeper hole for himself everywhere he goes, and getting more people invloved in his insensitive doings. He has committed an ugly, cold hearted crime for no reason at all. He can't even explain why he did it, and all his confessions show that he does not even find any wrong with what he has done!!!
Banville style of writting gives you the best picture of the different personalities involved, the human reaction to panics, and more so how cruel and unappreciative mankind can be.
A thrilling story, your always waiting for when the truth is going to be discovered, how far Freddie can go with his cold attitude to such a crime, and what will be his attitude in court.
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4.0 out of 5 stars It goes on... March 19 2002
I shan't write a lengthy blow by blow review of the plot, I merely thought I might add that if you have read this book and enjoyed it you might be delighted to know that Banville's "Athena" is a sequel to "The Book of Evidence". Both are a good read, engaging, painfully personal. If you have ever been the victim of regret and rejection, if you have ever experienced the lonliness of mental solitude, with an unnatural distaste for society, you will not be dissapointed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The horrors of a morally bankrupt society Oct. 18 2001
By A Customer
Freddie Montgomery killed because he could. This one liner economically but eloquently nails the issue at the heart of John Banville's splendid novel, "The Book Of Evidence". The horror that Freddie's act of murder evokes is not so much that he killed but he killed because it was expedient for his purpose and because he failed to glimpse even the first sign of humanity in the victim he so cruelly and senselessly batters to death as he makes away with the loot. If for one moment he did, the dastardly act would have been avoided. The novel, written as a confession to us readers, suggests that it took his arrest and conviction for him to recognize the meaning of his action. Punishment is justified and meted out because he broke faith with society and is ostracized for it. The moral bankruptcy that Banville depicts in Freddie isn't a fantasy. It is an unspoken condition a society finds itself in, even as its inhabitants go about pursuing their goals with no larger purpose than to attain them. The amorality at the heart of Freddie's story is never more pointedly suggested than in the chilling scene of a menage a trois signifying an unholy alliance among the threesome (Freddie, Daphne and Anna) early in the plot. This scene is unforgettable for its sense of foreboding and evil. Banville has written several superb novels including the underated "The Untouchable". His literary craft is truly awesome. Simply astounding. There is no better writer of contemporary fiction today. Read "The Book Of Evidence". It's wonderfully entertaining and insightful. You won't regret it.
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