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By the author of the extraordinary bestseller, The Quincunx The Quincunx was a surprise bestseller in 1989, selling more than 100,000 copies in paperback Charles Palliser returns once again to his Wilkie Collins style of atmospheric recreation in this brilliant new novel This is near faultless story-telling - a one-sitting feast' Scotland on Sunday 'This is, basically, a cracking yarn ... enormously enjoyable ... Wilkie Collins and chums having been effectively buried themselves for so long, it is charming that Palliser should so faithfully unbury them ahgain' Observer 'It is a big, fat murder
Palliser has created another tour de force of intricate plotting and darkly Victorian atmosphere. As with the best-selling The Quincunx, the reader is compulsively absorbed by tantalizing partial truths and vague foreshadowings, though coincidence plays a less intrusive role here. On a visit to an old school friend in Thurchester, England, professional historian Courtine looks forward to doing research in the cathedral library and renewing ties; he does not expect to become embroiled in a controversy surrounding a centuries-old mystery, nor does he anticipate being a major witness to a gruesome murder. Palliser brilliantly portrays the vicious rivalries particular to self-contained religious and educational institutionsÄrivalries that have been repeating themselves for 250 years since the horrific death of Canon Treasurer William Burgoyne and the mysterious disappearance of the Cathedral Mason Gambrill. This riveting story is as much psychological thriller as it is mystery. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/99.]ÄCynthia Johnson, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, MA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
A complex chronicle of evil, immorality and greed, British writer Palliser's engrossing new gothic thriller adroitly keeps three plot lines spinning and three mysteries unwinding while maintaining an atmosphere of sophisticated intrigue and dark suspense. The narrator of the main story, set in the late Victorian era, is Dr. Edward Courtine, an Oxford historian nearing 50, who leads a lonely life focused mainly on his research about a strange incident in the life of ninth-century monarch King Alfred the Great. Since an important 11th-century document relating to that event may be hidden in the library of the Thurchester Cathedral, Courtine is glad to accept an invitation from an old friend from his Cambridge college days, Austin Fickling, from whom he has been estranged for 20 years, to visit him in that remote little town. Veiled allusions from Courtine about the part that Fickling played in the breakup of Courtine's brief marriage constitute another layer of secrets. The Thurchester Cathedral also played a crucial role in the 17th-century murder of powerful, aristocratic Canon Treasurer William Burgoyne, and the disappearance of the cathedral's chief masonÄand the discovery of a body in a supposedly empty crypt during Courtine's Christmas-time visit only complicates the mystery. Framing these stories is the dramatic, teasingly oblique confrontation by the fictional editor of Courtine's posthumous papers with a woman who seems to hold the keys to another murder, a grisly affair that occurs during Courtine's stay in Thurchester. Each of these intersecting plots holds evidence of venal conduct, unscrupulous motives, religious factionalism, scholarly infighting and sexual secrets. With the minute calibrations and subtle slight-of-hand of a safe-cracker, Palliser (The Quincunx) advances his intricate, page-turning narrative with intriguing revelations, while depicting Courtine's gradual enlightenment about the moral decisions that lie in his path. Both a gifted raconteur and a shrewd observer of human nature, Palliser should win new readers on this side of the Atlantic with this compulsively readable tale. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.