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Customer reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars

on 30 August 2002
Having already read Betrayals once I recently re-read it. For those of you already familiar with the author's other works, namely the Quincunx and Unburied this represents something of a departure certainly in terms of subject matter if not style. The basis of the book is 10 interlinked stories connecting murders - hence a story related in the first chapter then reappears in a different context in a later chapter (with me so far?). This all gets slightly confusing when the stories change slightly as a different character gives their version.
Overall, as you would expect from Palliser, the writing style is very intrinicate and involved, and although initially gripping, the later chapters of the book offer little to the reader of real substance, for example one of the later chapters concerns a murder committed by a man who is unable to discern the difference between real life murders and TV murders, he consequently murders the star of scottish detective show Biggert (a corruption of Taggart). This particular story is dragged out with much unnecessary and uninteresting detail and becomes really tiresome. Its also a shame that the same pattern emerges for the latter half of the book
Nevertheless, for those like myself with somewhat esoteric taste this will make an enjoyable, if frustrating read.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 December 2009
As other reviewers have said, this is very different from Palliser's Quincuncx or The Unburied. Literary and literate, it plays postmodern fictional games with the very idea of fiction and story-telling taking swipes at both Theory (definitely capitalised!) and popular fiction.

I loved the first half where various stories play out over and over but always from different angles, mutating each time they are told and mixing fictional with 'real' characters. But the later half became a bit wearying.

Moving from Victorian pastiche to other kinds of generic and literary burlesque, this has some real gems of writing but I couldn't help feeling that the parts are more than the whole.

If you hate post-structuralist literary theory (Lacan, Derrida etc.) then this might be a book to avoid however much Palliser pokes fun at the reverence with which they are, in some quarters, imbued. Interesting, entertaining, very intelligent but ultimately a little too jauntily clever for its own good perhaps. I tired of this just after the halfway mark.
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on 3 September 2008
But perhaps because of that, not quite the most fulfilling. It carries resonances of Italo Calvino, and even perhaps of Jorge Luis Borges in places - certainly in the depth of his imagined frames of reference. There are undercurrents to these stories that can twist your blood - let alone your brain, which may well be simmering nicely by then: unless you've resorted to pen and paper to keep track, which was my constant temptation.

I don't find that there's any particular departure from Palliser's often-noted 'style': perhaps simply that some of the subject matter is framed in non-Victorian times has confused some other reviewers - but his handling of the language is as assured as ever, and still carries that slight ring of self-consciousness that I could imagine might annoy one or two readers.

Make of it what you will - and I'd guess that careful research could reveal a target for the satire of every chapter (or story - depends whether you regard the book as a collection of stories or a linked succession) - there are some miraculous literary fireworks here. If you like your cleverness literary, then this is a must-buy.

And if you like a savavge, excoriating, cut-to-the-bone, ruthless, hilarious parody of a certain ennobled fraudster with a string of best-selling thrillers to his name - well this archery hits the bull's-eye dead centre. Buy it and read it for that one story alone.
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on 2 September 2006
In this book Palliser explores his themes of revenge, supense and the murder mystery genre by setting out what seem to be 10 unconnected stories. Have patience; as the book develops the links becomse clear. A series of notes at the end help those not enirely familiar with the genre (I didn't know much about "true life" murder mysteries, so missed some of the references). This is a different style than Quincunx, after the first 'Victorian' stories, but as with that most convoluted of plots, you need to be concentrating while you read or risk missing the clues. As the author himself advises, read the stories in order. This book is a perfect antidote if you feel you've read slightly too much Rebus recently...
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on 11 October 2005
If you have read Quincunx or The Unburied, then you will find that to call Betrayals 'a departure in style' is an understatement. Betrayals consists of a series of unconnected stories, chronologically sequential, about murder and betrayal with some crossovers into the following stories, albeit often tenuous. Parts of stories repeat in later stories in a different context with a different slant, and themes recur, often unexplained (unless I missed the explanation in the confusion).
Famous murders are picked over and new murders perpetrated, as various hypotheses are introduced, pseudo-philosophy and pseudo-literary theory are mixed in, and finally the border between the real world and artistic creation is confused, at least in the minds of the narrators, as the action steps between 'fiction' and 'reality'. There is sense of amused detachment, which is presumably intended, in the confusion that abounds. There is stong sense of being faced with an intellectual puzzle that needs to be solved, and there are many exciting moments, as well as longer passages that invite skimming.
Palliser uses literary devices to hold attention and develop suspense, but often this seems to lead nowhere in particular, or at least is left vague and unsatisfying.
As regards Palliser's 'historical' writing style, this becomes ever less effective as the stories move forward into recent times. There are deliberate spelling, grammatical and wrong use of word errors associated with particular characters, but then there are even more, which suggest the author may have been betrayed by the copy editor. I failed to fathom the erratic and annoying use of italics that suggested my copy was pre-final and uncorrected - perhaps it was.
The overall impression is that this is not a novel, but a sketch and notes that could be built into a novel. I freely admit that I do not see where Palliser is going with Betrayals, unless it is as simplistic as it appears, i.e. various parties turning the tables on one another to betray and reverse betrayals, in a generally paranoid atmosphere.
Also, there is a sense of different perspectives casting a new light on facts, although this is not rigorously followed through. I contrast this with an excellent example of seemingly 'bending' reality in the novel Ramona by Johnny John Heinz.
I think the final question is whether there is an attempt by the author to manipulate the reader, with perhaps ironic reference to the title.
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on 29 July 2011
The Quincuncx was an outstanding book.

This is not.

Palliser is a brilliant writer, but this is a thoroughly tiresome, self referential, boring set of tales- perhaps this kind of self indulgence is aimed at readers who cannot see that the king is in the altogether.....

There are so many good books to read, so move on from this, do not waste your time.
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