Charles Palliser - The Unburied

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Pretty confusing

May 24, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Some good characters

Cons:Too many characters, keeps all the secrets secret till the last 10 pages

I just finished reading The Unburied last night. I have to say that it was one of the most confusing mysteries Iíve ever read. You can tell a book has too many indistinguishable characters when the author feels the need to include an annotated list of characters in the back of the book. I was thoroughly confused for the last third of the book, and when I finally finished reading, I had to go back through earlier parts of the book just to figure out whether the outcome was actually supported by what I had read before.

The book was well written and interesting to me for as long as I could keep the characters straight. The characters in the modern part of the plot are pretty straightforward, but the ones from the older part are confusing as all get-out, possibly because I donít fully understand the structure of the Anglican church in that period. The main character and narrator was fairly non-offensive although he was pretty naÔve throughout most of the book. In particular, he was involved in one deceptive situation which I have no idea why he couldnít figure out. What was going on was so completely obvious to me (and I think to any reader who has at least a couple of Agatha Christies under his or her belt), that I was astounded when the author let the ďmysteryĒ of this situation stretch on till the very end of the book.

Indeed, the mysteries of every one of the several sub-plots in this book
were allowed to linger to the last ten pages. I donít think this is the best way to write a mystery. To keep the reader interested, something has to give. I found myself starting merely to scan pages towards the end of the book just to find some sort of resolution for some of what was going on.

I havenít read another of Charles Palliserís books, and it will probably be a while before I get around to reading The Quincunx, which I hear is better. The Unburied simply wasnít that compelling. It started well, and the modern characters were well-painted and entertaining, but the final solution to the mystery is too complex and overwrought, in my opinion.

As an additional note, if you have not read any Victorian-era novels or watched too much ďMasterpiece TheaterĒ, you may have trouble catching on to a couple of plot details towards the end. Some shocking revelations are dealt with in extremely delicate and high-handed prose and dealt with so briefly that you may miss the discussion entirely if your mind is not completely focused on the book and the period in which it is supposed to have taken place.



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