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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flat? Drawbacks? No way - this is a great book!
A terrific, thoughtful and deeply engaging mystery, this book completely tangles you into the gothic, foggy, deceptive world it describes. I've rarely read something so exceptionally well-crafted and intelligent. Moreover, it's not the pretentious, associative rambling that often passes for 'literary' writing, but tightly focussed story and characterisation. The...
Published on 14 Oct. 2002 by London reader

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Average
Reading the other reviews on here makes me wonder if I missed something completely in this book. It's OK, fairly standard plot, not great dialogue but it's entertaining and gripping enough to be enjoyed.

I don't understand the 'complex' plot comments though. Sure, there's more than one plot going on and there's very obvious parallels between two of them but is...
Published on 22 Jan. 2007 by Mr. M. Read


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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flat? Drawbacks? No way - this is a great book!, 14 Oct. 2002
This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
A terrific, thoughtful and deeply engaging mystery, this book completely tangles you into the gothic, foggy, deceptive world it describes. I've rarely read something so exceptionally well-crafted and intelligent. Moreover, it's not the pretentious, associative rambling that often passes for 'literary' writing, but tightly focussed story and characterisation. The narrator is sometimes half-informed, or untrustworthy, or disoriented - that's the point, the reader has to do some work to discover what's going on! So refreshing to have to engage with a work and really think about what's happening on a myriad of levels. This book makes you puzzle over themes of history, story-telling, reliable narration, constructing truth from what we see and read and hear, but all in a completely involving way. And that's one lesson you come away with, and made me go straight back to the beginning of the book: narrative curiosity and that itching hunger to find out the truth are what makes us read and learn and basically get out and live. This book is wonderful precisely because it plays games and infuriates and makes you go backward and forward - and anyone who considers themselves a reader of crime, historical fiction or 'literature' should give this a go and see what the novel form can still do.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading more than once, 3 May 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed this work. thw writer is extremely intelligent and his half Gothic half murder mystery novel touched on a lot of themes. Whereas for me with most murder mysteries I cannot be interested enough to work out who might be the murderer, this novel like Dostoyevsky's uses a whodunnit theme to investigate a number of subjects-faith, the nature of evil and the nature of history or historical truth and keeps interest in the entire mystery alive. What I found frustrating was that I was not so far able to concentrate as to be able to unravel all they mystery of the book even after a second read. The writer cleverely evokes the atmosphere of the time, although I think he occasionally slips in the dioalogue, which once or twice ocmes across as not quite period.
I felt that I must be a bit stupid (I am slow on the uptake about people and their motivations in real life) and the book can have a depressing effect in the sense that the normal reader may feel he/she is rather dim witted compared to the author. But how refreshing to find an intelligent novel, a novel from which one can learn something, a novel which is both an excape and not an escape, that is to say an escape into a foggy Gothic world which enthralls and at the same time a discussion of subjects which are contemporary (what is historical truth is a very very hot subject-consider the Shakespeare authorship debate and the reassessment of historical figures such as Richard 111 for example) a novel which is worth reading twice or even three times and for that reason is worth its price more than most novels.
If you you like at least two of these writers I think you will like this book: Umberto Eco/Mervyn Peake/ Agatha Christi/Brontes
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Triumphant Return of the Victorian Novel, 16 Dec. 2002
This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
Charles Palliser is the author who brought the Victorian novel out of the drawing room with The Quincunx, a fast-paced novel of adventure and intrigue.
With The Unburied, however, he takes us back into the drawing room...literally. Much of this book involves fireside conversation over sherry or port, and much of it moves at a pace that would make writers such as Dickens and George Eliot proud.
At first glance, The Unburied seems to be no more than a ghost story, and it is certainly atmospheric, filled as it is with all the spookiness and gloom one usually finds only in the Gothic form of the genre. Palliser, however, deviates somewhat from a standard thriller as he leads us down first one unexpected path, then another.
The book centers on the character of Dr. Edward Courtine, an academic who has come to the English town of Thurchester to visit an old acquaintance. Courtine gradually learns the details of a murder at the local cathedral more than two centuries earlier and of a ghost that some still believe to haunt the area. Courtine, however, hasn't come to Thurchester to hunt ghosts; he has come to look for a lost book about Alfred the Great. So great is his preoccupation with his search, in fact, that he overlooks what the reader can see quite clearly: all of the townsfolk are acting as if they had something to hide.
It is at this point that the unexpected paths make their first appearance. Unexpected paths, red herrings, false clues, the reader really doesn't know what to make of this story. Is the centuries old murder the book's focal point or is it, instead, the murder that has just been committed? Perhaps it both.
Palliser cleverly uses a recently revealed manuscript as a framing device and proceeds to tell his tale in the first-person, with Courtine as the narrator. The story is rewoven many times and readers who fail to pay attention will find themselves at a loss.
The Unburied unfolds in a typically slow Victorian fashion as Courtine embarks on a personal journey, addressing old wounds and looking towards a newly bright future. There is a lot of exposition is this book, but that is all to the good and Palliser has succeeded in creating one of those dark, brooding and intensely atmospheric Victorian novels that he, himself, loves so very much. Some readers, however, may find this frustrating. The Quincunx balanced its nineteenth century setting with a sense of urgency about the plot; The Unburied takes its time as gaslights, fog, architecture and landscape come to be regarded almost as characters in their own right.
By the time we near the end of this amazing book, we begin to wonder if this is a story of murders long ago or ghosts that still walk. Or is it even more? Is it an exploration of the things that can, and often do, haunt a man internally? The answer is something that each reader will have to decide for himself, for this is certainly an ambitious work.
The Unburied is a book for mystery lovers and for non-mystery lovers alike. Anyone who enjoys a well-constructed novel written with meticulous care and detail will find this book time well spent.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A clever, labyrinthine mystery that is utterly enthralling., 10 May 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Unburied (Hardcover)
If you like a good mystery to get your teeth into, have a gnaw on The Unburied! Charles Palliser's fine storytelling is a little reminiscent of Colin Dexter; they both give you all the clues you need to solve the mystery, but you must pay very close attention! I was also reminded of Wilkie Collins, especially by the abundance of strange and unlikely characters! Palliser's intricately woven plots are every bit as labyrinthine as the cathedral whose looming, foreboding presence dominates the atmosphere of this novel. The cathedral is reminiscent in its bearing of Hardy's Egdon Heath in The Return of the Native; it is omnipresent and threatening, unwilling to give up its secrets. The stories within the story are cleverly entwined and have their parallels... If I had any criticisms they would relate to the Alfred the Great link which I did find tedious at times. Some of the dialogue is a little unnatural especially when the main character first reunites with his old school friend and there is too much pontificating. Despite these minor gripes, The Unburied is a thoroughly riveting and entertaining read which will keep you guessing (rightly or wrongly) up to the very end and the somewhat disturbing last sentence!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stick with it, 7 Aug. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
A book where little is what it first seems, and which will stimulate re-reading after completion. As I ploughed through the first 100 pages or so I thought, this one's a slow burner. The suspense and mystery build up slowly, but by the end I was hooked, and the final 50 pages are gripping. I was worried that the final few pages left too little space to satisfactorily resolve the plot, but in fact I think Palliser has handled the pacing well. What an imagination this guy has! Does anyone know anything about him?
I would recommend this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great fun - ever felt like a pawn ?, 2 Feb. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
Having been gripped by The Quincunx (fantastic) and amused (and bemused too) by Betrayals (out of print i think) I was at least prepared for the labrynthine plot of The Unburied. It is intelligent and funny and well written and keeps you guessing. Ecclesiastical politics, scholastic rivalry and a fascinating whodunnit, Morse meets Trollope. Palliser's books are shifting sands. Dr Courtine, our eyes to the truth is a flawed and human hero. Who can you believe? - now there's the mystery. Reader beware. You'll love it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Could CP recapture the brilliance of the Quincunx? -- Yes., 6 Sept. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Unburied (Hardcover)
Although this doesn't get into one's bloodstream and take over one's psyche to the extent that the incomparable Quincunx does, this very assured novel is as atmospheric and shares with the Quincunx its tenebrous mood and sense of insalvable perdition as the general human condition. As with the Quincunx the narrative is cleverly conducted through the viewpoint of an unreliable (honest, but not clear-seeing) narrator (though in this novel we don't get the Bleak House style omniscient distant-god's-eye narrative interludes), and the reader may seek the pleasure of discerning the truth before the narrator does. Taken together, The Quincunx and The Unburied show there to be a Palliserian world, a grotesque and somewhat Dickensian but very bleak, dark and morally defeated nineteenth century England.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Victorian murder mystery, 2 May 2010
By 
Helen S - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
The title of this book may suggest a horror story complete with zombies and vampires, but The Unburied is actually a scholarly murder mystery which reminded me of The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco or An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. I wanted to read it because a few years ago I read another Charles Palliser book, The Quincunx, which I really enjoyed. Like The Quincunx, this one is set (mostly) in Victorian England. It begins with a mock 'Editor's Foreword' in which we are told that we are about to read an account which will throw new light on the controversial Thurchester Mystery. This account, known as The Courtine Account, forms the bulk of the book.

Dr Edward Courtine, a historian from Cambridge University, has been invited to spend the week before Christmas with Austin Fickling, an old friend from his student days who is now teaching at a school in the cathedral city of Thurchester. He and Austin haven't seen each other since they parted on bad terms twenty years ago, and Courtine is eager to renew their friendship. He also has another reason for wanting to visit Thurchester - he has been studying King Alfred the Great and has learned that an ancient manuscript detailing the events of Alfred's reign may be available in Thurchester Library. On the night of Courtine's arrival he hears the story of a murder that took place in the cathedral two centuries earlier. Courtine is fascinated, but as he begins to investigate he becomes involved in another murder mystery - and discovers Austin's true motive for inviting him to Thurchester.

As the main narrator of the book, I found Courtine very irritating, but at the same time I felt slightly sorry for him. For such an obviously intelligent person he was completely lacking in perception, constantly saying the wrong things, missing important clues and failing to notice people behaving suspiciously. Sometimes he would tell us that he was beginning to form a theory or that an idea had occurred to him, but he didn't let us know what it was. This was good in one way, as it encouraged me to work things out for myself, but it also annoyed me because I was already finding it difficult enough to keep all the threads of the story straight.

Although the town of Thurchester and its community are vividly depicted, I didn't find any of the characters particularly memorable. As for the plot, it's so intricate you really need to read this book in as few sittings as possible so you don't forget any important details. There seemed to be a constant stream of unexplained deaths and forged documents, with at least three separate mysteries from different eras all running parallel to each other - and different characters giving different versions of what may or may not have happened. I wished I had been taking notes from the beginning.

This is a very atmospheric book with lots of gothic elements, from the freezing fog that accompanies Courtine's arrival in Thurchester to the obligatory 'ghost' supposedly haunting the cathedral. It would have been a good book to read in front of the fire on a cold winter's night. In spite of the slow pace the book was relatively quick to read and although it was certainly confusing, I did enjoy it, especially when the various mysteries began to unravel towards the end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A master story teller, 29 April 2009
By 
H. Lacroix (France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
I have just finished reading 'the unburied' for the second time and once more I am amazed at the quality of the prose and the cleverness of the plot with its many twists and turns. It is the story of a Cambridge man ,Edward Courtine, honest but somewhat easy to mislead, who visits a former friend of his 20 years after they last saw each other, in the small university town of Thurchester in the year 1882.Courtine is eager to renew a friendship that has been lost and to find a manuscript supposed to reside in the Thurchester library that might enable him to prove a historical point and gain an enviable position at his university. In Thurchester Courtine will learn many of the town's secrets and legends including that of a famous murder in the cathedral 200 years before but what he will only realize too late is that he has been duped and betrayed and that his visit is no coincidence at all. Some people with dark deeds on their minds need him to be there and to witness certain events...
A fascinating book about trust, betrayal, love, friendship, conceit, guilt, ambition ,greed, stupidity it is a literary masterpiece that gives the reader infinite pleasure, leads us astray before finally setting us on the right path. There are only a very limited number of writers whose stories have interested and challenged me as much as Palliser's. It would be a great pity not to read it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding Imagination, 15 Jan. 2009
This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
I read the Quincunx ages ago in one marathon sitting. Having lent the book to a long-lost friend, I recently bought it again via Amazon and saw this one too.

I have just finished it. It is 380 pages or so long, but in practice this means nearly 800 pages as it needs to be re-read fairly soon after the first attempt, to capture all the sly clues and subtleties which the author leaves in his wake.

Other reviewers have picked up some small flaws - the odd longeur, maybe a hint of ananchronistic dialogue. But so what? The scale and ingenuity of these intertwined mysteries, the crafty detail and the deftly hinted kinkiness fluttering beneath the surface combine to create a remarkable intellectual experience. For people interested in the very idea of history, the clever and often cynical exchanges about what gets recorded for posterity and by whom are also finely worked.

Anyway, here's a tiny clue. If you want to kill someone, the problem lies in showing that you were not there when the deed was done. So how to get round that ..?
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The Unburied
The Unburied by Charles Palliser (Paperback - 1 Nov. 2000)
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