The book in my TBR pile that I was most looking forward to reading this fall was The Unburied by Charles Palliser. I saved it until last hoping it would be my best perilous read. I think it did turn out to be one of the strongest books I read this season but it wasn't quite as good as I hoped it would be after my experience with another Palliser book, The Quincunx. The story was compelling and interesting but also a bit vague in parts and there was some overuse of adverbs.
It's the late nineteenth century and Dr. Courtine, an academic from Cambridge, is traveling for the holidays but takes a detour to visit a friend who has contacted him after a twenty-year estrangement. Courtine had a falling out with this man, Austin, but hopes that he wants to renew the friendship. He also hopes to get some research done in the cathedral town of Thurchester where Austin lives. Instead of his intended studies, Courtine becomes interested in a two hundred year old murder mystery from the town. Eventually, he is also dragged into a modern murder mystery -- one that happens during his stay.
This was definitely an appropriate R.I.P. Challenge read. It's a very interesting historical mystery and for those interested in any of the time periods visited in this book, I think it's a strong offering. The atmosphere is well-set in the wintry Cathedral close and the mystery is unfolded in an academic manner. And yet, there was nothing incredibly compelling about any of the characters, suspects or victims. Courtine's account also used excessive emotional descriptions--every character was always saying something sharply or suspiciously or angrily or strangely--that became distracting. It's possible that Palliser wrote in this manner on purpose (the narrator being an imaginative professor and not a writer) but it seemed a bit flamboyant. Finally, some of the crimes were only mentioned in the vaguest terms and it was difficult to really put together everything that was supposed to have happened. However, these shortcomings weren't enough to outweigh the strengths of this book.
Hoping to never find skeletons (or rotting corpses) in the closet,
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