What an odd little book. I’ve read Quincunx by the same author, and that is an odd large book. So the word I guess I’m best associating with Palliser at the moment is “odd”. And I’ll add “skilful” because there is no denying that his writing is obviously accomplished. Ostensibly a murder mystery (both present [as in the book’s present] and historical) this is more of a psychological mystery – the complex and intricate plotting of the whodunnit matched by the complex and intricate detailing of the mind of the narrator, Dr Courtine.
The story is set in Victorian times in a cathedral town, amongst the various denizens associated with the cathedral and, as said, is narrated by Dr Courtine – a history professor visiting an old friend and nursing an old grievance. There is much here about historical manuscripts, academic intrigue and theological debate as well as personal demons.
This reminded me on more than one occasion of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose (which I love), though the labyrinthine turnings of the whodunnit plot did threaten to overwhelm me every so often – I have to admit my attention span is not what it once was (I blame the interwebs). The characters themselves are intriguing, especially the little psychological revelations and the “secrets and lies” tone, but ultimately completely unlikeable.
All in all, a good read and one I’d recommend to Victorian mystery buffs especially (and even more especially those with good concentration skills and long attention spans), but not one I felt particularly connected to on an emotional level.
2 ½ little black furry BookieMonster Kitteh paws up. Or 3. Argh. I’m on holiday, I’ve no decision-making skills.