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The Graveyard Position: A Novel of Suspense [Hardcover]

Robert Barnard


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Book Description

April 26 2005
After 22 years, Merlyn Docherty returns to his family home for his aunt's funeral. He had developed a special affection for Clarissa Cantelo who had adopted him and raised him. But when he reached the age of 16, his clairvoyant aunt predicted his life would be blighted by violent death and suggested that he should disappear for a time.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (April 26 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743253469
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743253468
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 14.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,324,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Spiritualist Clarissa Cantelo's death reunites her surviving family members, an eccentric clan guarding some dark secrets, in this blackly comic whodunit from prolific British author Barnard (A Cry from the Dark). When Clarissa's nephew and heir, lawyer Merlyn Docherty, who's been living in Brussels, resurfaces after two decades, his relatives challenge his claim; everyone thought he was long dead. Motivated by self-preservation to probe the Cantelo family's twisted dynamics and complex alliances, Merlyn slowly pieces together a pattern that hints at conspiracies and sexual deviancy. An attempt on his life that claims another's suggests he's getting too close to the truth for someone's comfort. Fans of classic murder puzzles will be delighted by the careful hiding of clues in plain sight. Few writers of contemporary mysteries can equal Barnard's ability to meld a clever fair-play plot with satire.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Aunt Clarissa has just died, leaving everything (she was heir to a shirt-manufacturing fortune) to her nephew Merlyn, who has been living abroad for years in Brussels. When Merlyn returns to Leeds to claim his rightful inheritance, he confronts his dysfunctional extended family once again, all of whom are surprised to see that he is still alive, since Aunt Clarissa had suggested otherwise. But there is more in the air than simply the usual family discord--in fact, the atmosphere hints of a family conspiracy to keep information away from him. The body "in question" here--Barnard writes, after all, traditional British whodunits--is not Aunt Clarissa's but, as it turns out, that of the old family patriarch who died years ago. Barnard's novels may be traditional, but they are certainly not tired. His latest Police Sergeant Charlie Peace tale is a fresh take on family inheritance, at the same time exhibiting all the author's greatly appreciated traits, including charm, wit, and excellent pacing. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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The organist was playing yet another slow, amorphous piece, and for the mourners who had taken their pews early, enough was becoming enough. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Murder as a family affair. May 1 2005
By E. Bukowsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
After more than two decades abroad, Merlyn Docherty has returned to the bosom of his family, the Cantelos, to attend the funeral of his beloved Aunt Clarissa. However, the Cantelos are less than thrilled to see Merlyn. Some of them are even accusing him of being an impostor who wants to get his hands on Clarissa's estate. Merlyn soon suspects that the Cantelo family is hiding something from him, and he intends to find out what it is--unless, of course, someone kills him first.

Robert Barnard's "The Graveyard Position" is a talky and occasionally amusing psychological mystery about a dysfunctional and mean-spirited family. Grandfather Cantelo, the patriarch, was a vicious and self-centered man who brought up his large brood to compete with one another. As a result, the Cantelo family is comprised of bitter and suspicious misfits rather than loving and cooperative relatives. When Merlyn gets to know the Cantelos, he finds them to be a repellant bunch. However, he needs to stick around long enough to prove that he is indeed Merlyn and to claim his rightful inheritance.

Most of this book consists of long-winded conversations between Merlyn and his family, the police, and people who knew the Cantelos over the years. In addition, Merlyn reminisces about his troubled childhood, and he does his own research into the Cantelo family history. Ultimately, he unearths an explosive secret that his family has been taking great pains to hide for many years. All of this adds up to an intermittently engrossing, but rather tame, novel, in which the author tries to be funny and serious at the same time. Barnard's story does provide valuable insight into the stresses that can tear families apart, and there are some genuinely funny moments here and there. However, the "The Graveyard Position" lacks the suspense and the satirical bite that has made Barnard so effective in the past.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Robert Barnard Mystery yet. June 5 2005
By Mary Ingram - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have read only a few of Barnard's mysteries and hadnt made

up my mind about him. "Graveyard Position" cinched it for me.

Merlyn Cantelo inherits his late aunt Clarissa,s money and

home. Clarissa was a clairvoyant and just happened to be

most likely the sanest member of the totally dysfunctional

Cantelo Family. Clarisse sent Merlyn away years ago as she

feared for his safety and now hearing of her death he returns

for her funeral and finds he still has to fear for his safety-

from his own family. I don't like many present day mysteries

having mainly preferred late 1800's and early 1900's mysteries-

best ever written but I am glad I decided to read this book.

Now I will have to go out and bring myself up on other

Barnard mysteries.
3.0 out of 5 stars One Dimensional Jan. 4 2007
By S. Wheeler - Published on Amazon.com
Robert Barnard's books are a mixed bag. This is not one of the best. Merlyn (occasionally spelled Merlin in the book I read) was mysteriously sent away from home at the age of 16 by his Aunt Clarissa because she was afraid he was in danger. With that notable exception, he has been completely out of touch with his family for over 15 years.

Upon his aunt's death, he returns. Some of the family are sceptical of his identity, but he quickly establishes his bona fides by means of DNA testing. In fact, later in the book, DNA testing becomes a quick fix to the solution of an attempted murder. As a plot twist, "never mind there's no proof or witnesses, a DNA test will prove you're guilty" is a little facile.

Much is made of the fact that Aunt Clarissa is a clairvoyant, but it doesn't really fit into the plot in any meaningful way. Also, the idea that the personalities of an entire family would be warped by a competition among the kids for allowance money is a little strange. It seems all kinds of behavior might result from that, not just that they are all competitive with each other.

In sum, pretty superficial.
3.0 out of 5 stars An odd little book... Aug. 3 2011
By Debra Hamel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
When his beloved Aunt Clarissa dies, Merlyn Cantelo returns home after decades abroad to claim his inheritance. He's welcomed by his dysfunctional extended family with suspicion and acrimony, which is par for the course, really, for this family: historically the Cantelos have only united in purpose when that purpose was a malevolent one. Merlyn sets to digging up old scandals and consequently makes himself a target, which is something his prescient Aunt had in fact long worried about, the reason for his being sent abroad in the first place. The Graveyard Position is an odd little book with a number of problems. The conversations are implausible, and assumptions are jumped to without good reason--even if they do prove to be true. The degree to which the police get involved in Merlyn's predicament--even before a crime is committed--is surprising. A manuscript is discovered that could shed light on much of the Cantelo family's history, but that thread peters out after a while. What's so odd about the book, though, is its general tone. Although published just a handful of years ago, it reads like something from Agatha Christie's era. Only a few modern references suggest that it wasn't. Readable enough, but the more you think about it the more small problems you're likely to spot.

-- Debra Hamel
4.0 out of 5 stars Stylish as always Dec 28 2010
By Srdjan Pesic - Published on Amazon.com
Robert Barnard, one of the living legends of British mystery writing, stands out with originality and stylish prose. He never writes the same book twice, and his twists and turns are logical and believable.
In this novel he is as stylish as always. Unfortunately the plot line is dull and repetative.
The notorious Cantelo family is just not that interesting. And the puzzle is not as fresh as we expect from this beloved author.
Even a grand master of this genre can occassionaly write less then perfect book. Still, it is way better than most of the drivel published these days.

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