“WhoDunnits” tend to follow enjoyably recognisable formulae but predictability can pall a bit. It took a while to grasp that this one would be different. Our hero Dr Quirke may be known to some from his earlier exploits . He is an alcoholic pathologist with a troubled past who never learnt to drive . So naturally without learning or licence he walks out of the clinic onto a forecourt and buys his first car. He explains to his companion , “Best car the British ever built. Beautiful thing”. The salesman confirms “It’s a TC108 Graber Super Coupe. One of only three manufactured so far, by Willowbrook…Hermann Graber Swiss master designer”. It was , the author continues, “a magnificent machine, black, gleaming, low slung, displaying a restrained elegance in every line”.
This chap can write a bit.
Quirke uses it as he follows a suspicious disappearance through a thicket of unexpected liaisons and expected political cover-ups.
It certainly catches the eye of his acquaintance as an extremely sporty car. He notices it likes to be revved a bit to change (down presumably) into third , and it sways left a bit on sharp right hand bends. He eventually concludes that he is not really worthy of the car. Much later it makes a dramatic departure.
My thanks to Richard Mitchell who sent me this to review. I enjoyed the tale and getting to know mid ‘fifties Dublin: certainly the only way this reviewer will shall ever see it through a Graber windscreen !
Richard suggested I pass it onto John Fox. I did. John has already pointed out that none was sold new in Eire. No Willowbrook possessed the rear doors to which incidental reference is made, but that is a small niggle. We both wondered how the author lighted upon this particular car.
“Restrained elegance in every line ” – perhaps , like Richard, he admired it in his youth? It appears to have been neatly added into the period cover photo. That has copyright Tony Linck/ Time Life Pictures/Getty Images. It seems to have a very small bonnet air inlet in front of the driver and an electric pusher fan behind the mesh grill but in front of the radiator. Which Graber was/is it ?
The publishers are Mantle (Pan Macmillan) , cost £16.99 for a hardback, a paperback follows this year.
If you click on www.alvis.ch the source of the photo is to be found. The real car is a genuine Graber, not a Willowbrook, and is alive, well and in concours condition in Villars. I wonder what made John Banville choose this car for his character?