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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars But What About the Ghost
I usually can't stand mysteries but Charles Palliser's "The Quincunx" seemed too good to pass up...and it was. So, I was really eager to read "The Unburied," even though it took me some time to get around to doing just that. I found that "The Unburied" is a very different mystery than is "The Quincunx." While "The Quincunx" was filled with fast-paced adventure and...
Published on May 20 2002

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3.0 out of 5 stars The Unburied
The story is a whacky, weird book that a lot of people would enjoy.I would say that a lot of people can relate themselves to the main characters of this book.The way people's minds want to go figure out a problem or they are just so curious about something they want to go figure it out.The main character's name is Julia and she has some dreams about a strange...
Published on March 6 2003 by D.T.


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars But What About the Ghost, May 20 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
I usually can't stand mysteries but Charles Palliser's "The Quincunx" seemed too good to pass up...and it was. So, I was really eager to read "The Unburied," even though it took me some time to get around to doing just that. I found that "The Unburied" is a very different mystery than is "The Quincunx." While "The Quincunx" was filled with fast-paced adventure and intrigue, "The Unburied" is definitely a 19th century "drawing room" mystery. A lot of this book even takes place in the drawing room...in front of massive fireplaces, during tea, etc. It is a setting that fits the novel and the story told perfectly.
The trouble with "The Unburied," for me at least, is that it can't seem to decide exactly what it is. At first, it seems to be a very Gothic ghost story. Dr. Edward Courtine is an academician who travels to the British town of Thurchester to visit an old friend. In an overly-long opening exposition (one in which I nearly discarded the book), Courtine learns of a 200 year old murder and of a ghost that is said to still haunt Thurchester. Okay, I thought, good. I like ghost stories, as long as they're told with skill and panache.
Courtine however, wasn't as interested in the ghost (or in the fact that the people of Thurchester were acting in a very odd manner) as he was in tracking down a lost book on Alfred the Great. At this point, I felt my interest begin to sag a bit, but still, I thought, perhaps the lost book had something to do with the ghost. Palliser is a clever writer and I thought he would certainly tie the two together...eventually.
"The Unburied" is a book with more red herrings and false clues, more twists and turns than an Alpine mountain pass and this isn't always good. Not only do we have the 200 year old murder to think about, Palliser gives us a fresh murder to entice and confuse us. Is "The Unburied" about the 200 year old murder and the ghost that is said to haunt Thurchester or is it about this recent murder? The answer is really both and neither. If that makes no sense to you, you'll just have to read the book to find out why.
I liked "The Unburied" overall, but I think Palliser made it a little too ponderous, a little too difficult. There's a little too much "telling" in this book and not quite enough "showing." And I think it was a bit overly-long. Even 19th century readers got tired of so much expository material.
If Palliser wanted to write a book that returned the reader to the 19th century English "drawing room" mystery, he certainly succeeded. This a book that is very Victorian in flavor and in pace. I really didn't mind this slow pace...I like atmosphere and "The Unburied" simply abounds with rolling fog, gaslights and things that go bump in the night. What I didn't like was the fact that Palliser left so many questions unanswered and led us down so many false trails that we began to lose sight of the real one.
If you're a reader who loves a good mystery, who loves a mystery in which it's impossible to figure everything out, and if you have the patience to wade through many red herrings and false starts, then "The Unburied" might be perfect for you. But if you need something a little faster-paced and if you need all the questions answered at the book's end, it might be best to pass on this one even though it is very well-written.
I know several people have compared Palliser with Umberto Eco. This is unfair to both authors, I think, as both are very original in style and content. And really, Palliser is nothing at all like Eco! Eco is far more cerebral than is Palliser. Palliser, whose writing is just as good, writes more for the "everyday" reader than does Eco.
Overall, I liked "The Unburied," but I did get impatient with Palliser (and with Courtine) at times, and I did want to know about that ghost!
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5.0 out of 5 stars How many secrets can be crammed into a small town????, Sept. 23 2003
By 
B. Morse (Boston, MA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
In October 2002 I started reading The Unburied after picking it up, along with The Quincunx, from a local bookstore...deciding to indulge in the thinner, double spaced Unburied before I dived into Quincunx, and get a taste for the author. Like another reviewer here, I read perhaps 150 pages before I put the book down. It didn't seem to be going anywhere...and was dryer than the bones of a corpse uncovered in the second half of the book.
In September 2003, I picked the book up again, and gave it another chance...and read it in four days.
There are far too many plot twists to reveal in fully reviewing this book...plot twists that unfold like a stone wrapped in a blanket; the soft, fuzzy layer that we put over events too painful to deal with peeled away to reveal the coarse, jagged stone of truth underneath.
The storyline: Edward Courtine arrives in a small Victorian town at the behest of his boyhood school chum, Austin Fickling, after more than twenty years of separation. Courtine arrives with dual purposes; that of reviving his friendship with Austin and finally laying to rest a two-decade old embroilment between them involving Edward's young wife....but not what you would think; and to search the library of the Cathedral that Austin teaches at for an ancient manuscript which might shed new light, and possibly disavow previously documented stories of Alfred the Great, Courtine's favored historical figure.
Austin extends this invitation for unscrupulous reasons; hinted at by his late-night meanderings through the darkened streets and back alleys surrounding the Cathedral and nearby houses in the Upper and Lower 'Close' as they are called.
Courtine is drawn to an old inscription, purportedly shedding light on another mystery of the town; that of the rivalry, fight, death, and disappearance of two figures from the town's history involved in the restoration of the Cathedral long ago.
Further enhancing the cloak of gloom and doom already loured over the town is another murder, that of one Mr. Stonex, who resides in the house next to the stone bearing the inscription that Courtine reads....only minutes after Courtine and Fickling finish having tea with the man, a notorious recluse who only opens his doors three times per day, to allow the entrance and exit of his housekeeper, and to take his evening meal.
All of these plotlines are woven together in a 400 page treat which invites comparisons to Umberto Eco and other scholarly authors. Charles Palliser manages to tell a breathtaking tale of murder and duplicity; of grief and despair; of horrors of the body and the mind; and not once was it all too graphic, or at all undigestible.
Charles Palliser has created a dark, gloomy Victorian mystery with The Unburied....well worth the time to read...even if it takes other readers longer than the four days it took me.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Unburied, March 6 2003
By 
D.T. (Plantation, FL) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
The story is a whacky, weird book that a lot of people would enjoy.I would say that a lot of people can relate themselves to the main characters of this book.The way people's minds want to go figure out a problem or they are just so curious about something they want to go figure it out.The main character's name is Julia and she has some dreams about a strange character,who haunts her in her dreams.But she recognized the background of where the strange being was at in her dreams. It was where she grew up,in Little Rock,Arkansas.
I could relate to Julia because she wants to go see if this thing is real and that's propably what I would have done.My favorite part of the story is where Julia finally gets to confront the strange being and wait...I will let you read it for yourself to find out what happens.
I liked the book because it is not at all predictable.This book makes you want to read more and more untill you get to the end.I heard on the downlow that there is going to be a sequel to this book.
I would recommend this book to almost everybody but I would say about 14 and up should read this because it's pretty hard to follow.Some parts were a little gory so I would say mostly males should read this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Victorian Mysteries, Jan. 5 2003
By 
schapmock (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
More than a simple Victorian pastiche, The Unburied is something of a conversation between eras and viewpoints in the tradition of A.S. Byatt and Umberto Eco. Clearly out of his depth historian/narrator Dr. Edward Courtine effectively shares his interest in the past of the English cathedral town of Thurchester even as academic skullduggery, past betrayals, and ghost stories swirl about him.
For a timid academic, Courtine makes a surpringly charismatic protagonist, his account inadvertently making clear his limitations as professor and detective as events outpace him, his historical excursions into Thurchester's past fascinating, and his hinted upon past with old school chum Austin increasingly intriguing.
The Unburied stumbles only toward the end, where it devolves into a fairly straightforward murder mystery, the solution of which is far less interesting than our narrator, who is abandoned in a surprisingly ineffective use of the Wilkie Collins' tradition of using multiple narratives to wrap up a mystery.
But despite the lackluster wind-up, this is an atmospheric and entertaining story, using styles of another era to great effect.
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2.0 out of 5 stars What a Waste, May 28 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
I wanted to like this book. I really tried to. I liked its atmosphere -- it was almost like M.R. James, or the ghost stories of Benson or Arthur Conan Doyle. It also had something going for it that I admired: it had no graphic sex scenes, no gratuitous bad language. It was written as a good Edwardian storyteller might, and it was extremely well written, so far as the actual prose. Where Palliser goes wrong is that he tries to juggle stories set in three periods (actually, four, but the meat of the book has three): the immediate, Victorian story; a tale of Alfred the Great, conncted with a manuscript the hero is searching for; and a mystery set in the time of the English civil war. All fascinating periods. Unfortunately, the stories are integrated by clumily and at length through interminable dialogue scenes. And the three, in the end, simply aren't well integrated (especially the English civil war theme). Furthermore, Palliser goes off on tangents. For instance, there's a pointless discussion early on between two characters on Christianity, and I suppose the hero's point of view is Palliser's (though I don't know him and don't know this to be a fact). Like most non-Christians when presenting a fictional argument between a Christian and a non-Christian, the Christian starts of petulant and ends up hypocritical; and he never argues from orthodoxy, and seems to have the weakest grasp on what he believes (which may be true of most American Christians, but it also helps the author undermine that faith without actually learning anything about it that might give him positive responses). There's little action, which is a shame, because the book has a great setting. He has good characters, a good setting, three good stories ideas in which to run parallel themes, and a good handle on the English language . . . and yet it never gels. Nor does it seem particularly creepy. A minor caveat: the murder takes too long to happen, and, as a spoiler, the murderers are never well integrated in the plot, either. Now, one of my favorite writers, the extremely atmospheric John Dickson Carr, sometimes took his time about having the actual murder, but he did it with pinache, and he never introduced characters from the outside to do it. Overall, this book never quite ends up as the sum of its parts.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fiction to be read with a fork!, April 10 2002
This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
Palliser achieves a densely plotted novel in "the Unburied." Set in Victorian England, the main plotline chronicles Dr. Courtine's efforts at solving a Christmastime murder mystery in a sleepy Wessex college town. However, bound up within this is a closely intertwined ghost story (which is something of a murder mystery in and off itself). However, the real theme of the novel is Courtine's own journey of self-discovery, starting with his re-acquaintance with an old college chum and then on through his own halting investigation.
The novel is densely plotted, and it requires some focus to keep all of the details ordered. You learn something new about the novel's historical background, a character, or some event on every single page. If you like novels so thick that you need a fork to get them down, then this novel is for you.
I have read this author's work being favorably compared to Umberto Eco's. I disagree. The two authors share a propensity to write about academics, and love their esoteric details, but Palliser's work is not so relentlessly academic and philosophical. I love Eco, but acknowledge that his work is not fully accessible even for brainy types. Palliser is generally more approachable. I would put him on a par with Arturo Perez-Reverte.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not easy, but ultimately satisfying, Sept. 17 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
Several years ago I had the great pleasure of reading Charles Palliser's magum opus, the Quincunx. As a long devotee of Dickens, I found this great book to be a wonderful re-creation of the world of Dickens. When the Unburied was published, I immediately bought it. Twice I was able to make my way to about page 100, but for various reasons never made it beyond that point. It simply didn't pull me all the way in and I let myself be drawn to other books and other demands of life.
Ten days ago I decided that I was going to finish the book, come hell or high water. I'm glad I did because it's a very good novel. Once I made it to page 150 I was hooked and finished the book in a large gulp.
This novel requires patience and an ability to keep a lot of facts and clues straight. There is a multi-leveled story set in the Victorian times involving a murder, a literary mystery about King Alfred, a recounting of cathedral politics in the 17th century, a fairy tale, and several other sub-plots.
In the end, the read is well worth the effort. Palliser is particularly good at creating atmosphere ( in this case dark, foggy and wet) and in fleshing out memorable characters.
But this isn't a book for those who want a quick, easy read. However, if you're willing to invest some effort, I recommend the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read and re-read and even re-purchase, Sept. 10 2001
This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
This is one of my favorite books. I'm not sure why, either, but it really was a delight to read. I enjoyed it more the second time, and understood more too, because, as many people have pointed out: there is alot of "history" in the book that you hear from multiple perspectives. I let my father barrow it, and it took him much longer to get into it that it did me, but by the end he told me that after I took it back to reread it, he wanted to borrow it again to reread himself. That says alot I think. In fact, since he wanted to let my grandfather borrow the book, when i was finished I let my dad have the copy we'd been exchanging and bought a new one for myself. I'm just now reading his prior work "Quincunx" and looking very much forward to it. The only downside to this book is that you must love reading and reading deeply to enjoy it... it is not for the quick readers, skimmers or those that just like escapism... this is a delight, yet somewhat of a challenge to read well.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a second read, May 3 2001
This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed this work. The writer is extremely intelligent and his half Gothic half murder mystery novel touched on a lot of themes. Whereas for me with most murder mysteries I cannot be interested enough to work out who might be the murderer, this novel like Dostoyevsky's uses a whodunnit theme to investigate a number of subjects-faith, the nature of evil and the nature of history or historical truth and keeps interest in the entire mystery alive. what I found frustrating was that I was not so far able to concentrate as to be able to unravel all the mystery of the book even after a second read. The writer cleverly evokes the atmosphere of the time, although I think he occasionally slips in the dialogue, which once or twice comes across as a tad to modern for the end of the nineteenth century, but this does not often occur.
I felt that I must be a bit stupid, not having understood everything and stillbeing confused after a second read (I am slow on the uptake about people and teir motivations in real life) and the book can have a slightly depressing effect in that sense. ("Man am I stupid!")But how refreshing to find an intelligent novel, a novel from which one can learn something, a novel which is both an excape and not an escape (you can escape from your surroundings and enter a foggy Gothic world while reading it because it is enthralling but its subject matter is very relevant to today), a novel which is worth reading twice or even three times and for that reason is worth its price more than most novels.
If you you like at least two of these writers I think you will like this book: Umberto Eco/Mervyn Peake/ Agatha Christi/Brontes
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4.0 out of 5 stars Ultimately very satisfying, after a rough beginning, Feb. 28 2001
By 
J. Mullin (Plantation, FL USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Unburied (Paperback)
Another reviewer hit the nail on the head when he suggested that you forge ahead to the conclusion of the book, since I too thought long and hard about giving up the fight around the 150 page mark. Ultimately, a book that early on seemed ponderous and slow turned out to be a pageturner at the end, which I stayed up very late to finish.
The Unburied is supposedly an account of a murder at Thurchester Cathedral in Victorian England written in the 1880's by academic historian Courtine, with an intriguing Foreword and Afterword written by an editor, Barthram, in 1919. Initially the novel appears to be about 200 year old murder mysteries of the cathedral, a search for a lost manuscript in the catherdral library (a la Name of the Rose), and a philosophical discourse on organized religion vs. atheism. Happily, about halfway through the book, a recent murder transforms the plot into a thinking man's whodunit with many possible (and plausible) scenarios.
Like the novels of Patrick McGrath, you are not sure entirely whether to trust the conclusions and observations of Courtine, the narrator of most of the novel, since it becomes readlily apparent that he has certain pre-conceived notions and beliefs which are not always borne out by the facts. As mentioned above by other reviewers, you ultimately come to learn that many of the "mysteries" and details of long ago misdeeds are put up as a smokescreen, having little to do with the plot of the novel and its climax. These dead-ends can be a little frustrating, until you realize the cleverness of inserting parallel mysteries within a mystery to keep the reader (and Courtine) guessing. It is fun, after finishing the novel, to go back to Courtine's opening sentence about having encountered a man who was walking about, "despite the inconvenience of having been brutally done to death" and understand his reference.
Ultimately the book could've picked up steam a little faster, and maybe an editor's pen could have deleted some of the more obscure, confusing details, but by the end I was wrapped up in the plot and was very happy to stick with Palliser to the end. Now I have to grab a copy of The Quincunx.
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The Unburied
The Unburied by Charles Palliser (Paperback - Nov. 1 2000)
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