The Book of Evidence

John Banville

05 March 2010
224 pages


Inspired by the crimes of Malcolm Macarthur in Ireland, 1982, The Book of Evidence by John Banville is a gripping portrait of a cold, deceptive and utterly unprecedented killer.

'Banville writes a dangerous and clear-running prose and has a grim gift of seeing people's souls' – Don DeLillo, author of White Noise and Libra

Freddie Montgomery has committed two crimes. He stole a small Dutch master – an unattributed painting of a middle-aged woman – from a wealthy family friend. And he murdered a chambermaid who caught him in the act, bludgeoning her to death with a hammer.

An eccentric narcissist, he has little to say about the woman he killed. He travels through life without any apparent remorse. He killed her, he says, because he was physically capable of it. It made sense to him.

However, as he narrates his testimony, there is one thing he cannot understand. One thing he would desperately like to know. Why did he want to steal the painting?

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize

'Remarkable' – Ruth Rendell, author of the Inspector Wexford novels

The Book of Evidence is the first in John Banville's acclaimed Frames Trilogy. It is followed by Ghosts and Athena.

Banville has excelled himself in a flawlessly flowing prose whose lyricism, patrician irony and aching sense of loss are reminiscent of Lolita.
The Book of Evidence is a major work of fiction in which every suave moment calmly detonates to show the murderous gleam within. Banville writes a dangerous and clear-running prose and has a grim gift of seeing people’s souls.
One of the most important writers now at work in English – a key thinker, in fact, in fiction.