the-unburied-charles-pallise3798_f.jpgI have had this book on my to read pile for almost eight years, but had the urge to pick it up recently – perhaps the unseasonally cool weather made me look for a book whose blurb suggests that it is best read on a cold winter’s night next to a blazing fire rather than the beginning of July. In any case, as soon as I started reading The Unburied by Charles Palliser I was hooked. It is one of the few books which has made me nearly miss my train stop, and that for me is confirmation of the strength of the tale.

The novel is largely taken up by the account of Dr Courtine, a scholar who has gone to visit an old college friend in a Cathedral town, with the aim of locating a manuscript which he hopes will support his own theory of events around the time of King Alfred. During the visit he becomes drawn into a mysterious and seemingly impossible murder, which leads him to question his friendship and his own reliability as a witness.

The main story is framed by the comments of someone else who was present at these events but who has never spoken of them, who has edited Dr Courtin’e account in later life, and perhaps solved the mystery, at least to his own satisfaction.

I really loved this; it had  echoes of M R James in terms of atmosphere, and the central story was really gripping. It depends very much on what you as a reader thinks of Courtine himself; I found him complex and all too human, becoming increasingly aware of how he is viewed by the world, and rather liked him. Recommended.

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